What’s Next for Boxing
With HBO now out of the picture, Showtime moves up to the top of the food chain with ESPN, Fox, other cable and network outlets, and streaming services now looking to get a bigger piece of the boxing pie. Showtime had already been pushing past HBO in the ratings battle along with their stable of fighters headlined by Mayweather, WBC heavyweight champion Deontay Wilder, former heavyweight titleholder Luis Ortiz, and Mexican featherweight champion Leo Santa Cruz.
“Showtime focused on younger fighters with their Showtime Extreme series in connection with fighters signed by Al Haymon (owner of PBC). Their commentating team seems less biased and more in touch with boxing fans which is something that the HBO commentators were recently criticized for,” says Cruz.
“They pulled Chavez from HBO in the 90’s, and Tyson and Mayweather in the 2000’s while HBO got more selective and settled into deals with Golden Boy for fights,” adds Siuntres.
Streaming services have already entered into the foray of combat sports, the signing Canelo Alvarez to an 11-fight, $365 million contract was a biggest foray into the sport. ESPN is also making waves as well with it’s ESPN + service which is already offering plenty of boxing programming and will start broadcasting UFC content in 2019. Could these advances mean the end of traditional pay-per-view? “Maybe,” says Siuntres. “But more likely it will sit side by side with streaming for those who want to see a major fight without having to subscribe monthly.”
One thing is for certain is that the current shift within the sports media business model is here to stay for now at least. “With Netflix, Hulu, and some of these other streaming services, more people are cutting the cord with cable. There’s already been a model for success with the WWE (World Wrestling Entertainment) and their monthly streaming service (WWE Network),” Cruz said.
HBO may be leaving the sport of boxing but it’s legacy in history has been established and will never be forgotten. The network has definitely set the standard for network boxing coverage.
“Their legacy is secure, 45 years of big fights. They started just as an option to closed circuit theater watching in the 70’s and became the exclusive platform for the great fights of the 80’s and 90’s. They created TVKO which morphed into HBO Pay-Per-View,” said Siuntres about HBO’s legacy.
“I’ll miss the 24/7, Face Off, and 2 Days’ series, which all presented the fighters for a very unique perspective. These series’ were a great way to promote boxing talent and allowed viewers to step into their lives,” Cruz added.
So where does boxing television go from here? “With Matchroom Boxing’s deal to stream fights on DAZN, the PBC’s deal to televise fights on Fox and Showtime, and Top Rank’s deal to televise fights on ESPN and stream fights on the ESPN+ app, boxing is more accessible than ever and the multiple outlets should create competition and should force promoters to put on the best fights,” according to Cruz.
“We’ve seen this (digital) transition with The WWE and UFC. Showtime still seems committed to boxing, and we still have the channels Al Haymon’s Premiere Boxing Champions does business with like the Fox channels, etc.” Siuntres added.
The viewing options for boxing may be rapidly changing but the sport itself is always moving, especially for Latino fans and fighters alike.