Why Fox's 4-year deal with Premier Boxing Champions is a knockout for fight fans

Kevin IoleCombat columnist
Andre Berto (L) lands a left hand against Devon Alexander during a PBC on Fox bout at the Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum on Aug. 4, 2018 in Uniondale, New York. (Getty Images)
Andre Berto (L) lands a left hand against Devon Alexander during a PBC on Fox bout at the Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum on Aug. 4, 2018 in Uniondale, New York. (Getty Images)

The best news about Fox’s announcement that it has reached a four-year deal with the Premier Boxing Champions isn’t the 10 prime-time fights a year that will be broadcast on Fox, nor the 12 shows a year it will air on FS1 and Fox Sports Deportes, or even the occasional pay-per-view show it plans to produce.

The most significant news from an industry perspective, beyond the reported $50 million rights fee Fox is giving the PBC, is the wall-to-wall coverage it plans to support the events.

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It’s one thing to put a fight card on television and hope people stumble across it while channel surfing. It’s an entirely different thing to actively build interest in the sport and its athletes by producing features on them and reporting news so fans have an emotional investment in the fighters and their careers.

Anyone who has closely followed the UFC on Fox will be familiar with what the network plans to do. Fox announced it will broadcast more than 175 hours a year of shoulder programming related to boxing on its networks. That will include a studio show, pre- and post-fight shows, weigh-in coverage and more, the majority of which will be on FS1 and, occasionally, FS2.

It’s what boxing has been desperate to get for years. It’s why last year Top Rank made a deal with ESPN to deliver all of its content, to get the word out about the sport to a far broader audience than a premium cable network could ever deliver.

Fox has averaged 2.6 million viewers per show with its PBC fights since 2015. That’s roughly five times more viewers than Showtime averages per fight.

“We’re thrilled to expand our relationship with the PBC in coming years and take the world’s best boxers to the next level by exposing them to the widest possible audiences across Fox, FS1 and Fox Deportes,” said Mark Silverman, president of national networks at Fox. “While Fox Sports has been invested in boxing as a key property on both FS1 and Fox Deportes, this will be the first time in more than 30 years that boxing will be regularly featured in prime time on network television.”

The PBC bought time on various broadcast networks, including Fox, CBS and NBC, but the shows were never consistent and it was hard for viewers to know where to go to watch. Plus, there wasn’t much of any promotion on air for those shows.

But with Fox showing 10 cards a year in prime time and FS1 and Fox Deportes airing 12 shows, the continuity will be there that was lacking in the past.

Showtime has done brilliant work making terrific fights and has been the market leader for the last several years when it comes to putting on the best matches.

But with its investment, both financially and in air-time, the Fox deal has an opportunity to be a game changer, which the fighters recognize. Danny Garcia, who fights Shawn Porter for the vacant WBC welterweight title on Saturday at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn in a bout televised by Showtime, said he’s excited by the deal.

“I feel boxing has grown a lot over the years, and it’s in every weight class,” Garcia said. “For a while, it was just the welterweight division that was shining, where before, it was like, the heavyweights, too. I feel every division is big [and the Fox deal] is making boxing even bigger.”

The streaming service DAZN plans to launch its boxing coverage in the U.S. with a heavyweight title fight between Anthony Joshua and Alexander Povetkin, each of whom are former Olympic super heavyweight gold medalists. The Joshua-Povetkin fight is on Sept. 22, however, DAZN still isn’t open for fans to sign up.

The point of all of it is that not only is there extensive fight coverage across Fox, Showtime, ESPN, DAZN and, occasionally, HBO, there is going to be supportive content along with it. Boxing has largely lost its mainstream media coverage, and only a handful of newspapers cover the sport regularly or even semi-regularly.

That’s made it difficult for promoters to build wide interest in their fighters, and it’s why the shoulder programming that Fox plans will be so critical.

There has been much good going on in boxing recently, and all that has been needed is for the fighters’ stories to be told regularly to a wide audience.

That figures to change when the Fox deal kicks off in December.

It’s a boxing fan’s dream come to life. Never in its history has there been more, and potentially better, coverage of boxing, given what Fox, Showtime, ESPN and HBO are doing and plan to do.

It should also help hasten the development of stars and lead to higher pay and more out-of-ring opportunities for the athletes.

It’s the best news a boxing fan could have hoped to hear.

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