Nearly five years after its long-time rival HBO walked away from boxing, Showtime is doing the same at the end of 2023. Paramount president/CEO Chris McCarthy, in a letter to employees Tuesday, said Showtime would no longer produce sports, which means the end of both world-class boxing as well as Bellator MMA on the network.
McCarthy wrote that Showtime will continue with the events already on its schedule.
"As we continue to dedicate a larger percentage of our resources toward premium scripted series that drive subscribers for us in both Pay TV and SVOD, SHOWTIME will not be moving forward with boxing or other content produced by the SHOWTIME Sports and Event Program Team," McCarthy wrote to employees via email. "The company's decision isn't a reflection of the work the team and our partners have done, rather a reality of the world evolving and our shifting content priorities."
McCarthy noted that Showtime produced 750 live boxing events and 2,000 bouts.
The first boxing card Showtime broadcast was on March 10, 1986, at Caesars Palace in Las Vegas, when Top Rank promoted a middleweight title bout between Marvelous Marvin Hagler and John “The Beast” Mugabi. Showtime is most known for boxing, but it also broadcast Bellator MMA. Viacom, Showtime's parent company, is the primary owner of Bellator.
Showtime developed into one of boxing's most significant networks, first competing for subscribers and viewership with HBO. It made a serious dent in the industry when it signed former undisputed heavyweight champion Mike Tyson to an exclusive broadcast deal, signing him away from HBO. It did the same when it inked Floyd Mayweather away from HBO in 2013. With Mayweather, Showtime produced the two biggest pay-per-views in combat sports history. Mayweather versus Manny Pacquiao did 4.6 million sales in 2015, while Mayweather versus UFC star Conor McGregor did 4.4 million sales in 2017.
Showtime Boxing had a partnership with the Premier Boxing Champions, and a source told Yahoo Sports that Espinoza was calling fighters to inform them of Paramount's decision.
The PBC's Al Haymon has been looking for a network to partner with, and he has reportedly had talks with Amazon. It is unclear at this point what will become of Bellator's fighters. It was an open secret in the industry that Viacom has been trying to sell off Bellator for the last year or so.