PBC Inks Fox Deal, Boxing on Network TV is Saved by the Bell

By Paul Magno on September 4, 2018
PBC Inks Fox Deal, Boxing on Network TV is Saved by the Bell
Anyone who challenges the established order gets blasted—especially a guy like Haymon.

The media has had a hate-hate relationship with all things Haymon from the time the former concert mogul first entered into the boxing business…

In the spirit of full disclosure, I need to point out that I do fight previews for Premier Boxing Champions and quite enjoy doing nuts and bolts style analysis for them. I’ve always had a good relationship with them and have found them to be honest and forthcoming with any questions I’ve had as a writer. I’ve written plenty of critical articles about them and their fighters when warranted—both during and before this gig—and, unlike my dealings with some other boxing business entities, I’ve never gotten counter-punched by angry bossmen who didn’t like what I had to say.

Anyway, I was always a supporter of the idea behind PBC. I couldn’t care less about whether the boss, Al Haymon, personally succeeded, but the concept, IMO, was good for the sport.

Beyond the effort to bring boxing back to free network TV, PBC also turned the boxing hierarchy on its head. Essentially, under the PBC model, more power and influence would go to the fighters and networks, while moving away from the current model where all power and influence flows through the all-powerful promoter. It’s ultimately a good thing when power is decentralized, especially in a sport with a long history of corruption and almost zero meaningful regulation from the “outside” world. Nerfing the powers of the promoters would, in theory, mean that more of the decisions regarding judging and officiating would fall into the hands of those without a vested interest in the outcome of the fight.

It’s debatable whether PBC is still on that path to decentralize boxing’s power structure, but, at the very least, it’s not reinforcing the old school model and, yeah, the idea of boxing being on free TV (or away from multi-tiered paywall setups) is still a very good thing.

So, I was happy to see the recent announcement that Premier Boxing Champions had entered into a “long-term” deal with Fox and FS-1, worth more than $60 million a year.

According to reports, the deal calls for 10 “championship-level” fights on Fox per year and at least 12 shows on FS-1. This new arrangement lines up with PBC’s other recent business deal—a 3-year extension with Showtime—to provide for plenty of fight dates for the company’s 160+ fighters.

But, what interests me most as a fight fan eager to grow the sport and get it in front of as many eyeballs as possible, is the Fox arrangement. No longer a time-buy situation, Fox is now a paying customer, fully in the boxing game after losing the UFC. This is another shot at reaching the mainstream and a fail could mean boxing gets a permanent spot behind more and more paywalls.

The first time out, back when PBC debuted on network TV in 2015, the product was lacking. It wasn’t the matchups, necessarily (they were generally fine—it’s impossible to put on nothing but marquee main events between elites week after week, month after month. It can’t be just Yankees-Red Sox every day, sometimes you have to telecast the Mariners or Twins). The problem was that they tinkered too much with the aesthetic of the product, turning the ring walks generic, dissing other longtime traditions fight fans had come to expect, and, overall, producing events that looked like a WCW Nitro wrestling show from the 90’s.

It certainly didn’t help that the biggest piggies at the boxing media trough declared full-on war against Haymon and company, declaring the project a failure even before the first show aired.

The media has had a hate-hate relationship with all things Haymon from the time the former concert mogul first entered into the boxing business. And the resentment went max power when he scooped up so much talent and made a play to turn the business upside down. The worst kept secret in boxing is how much the biggest media voices are dependent on the current promoter-based hierarchy, which allows them access to fighters and newsworthy scoops as well as, in many cases, direct funding. Anyone who challenges that established order gets blasted—especially a guy like Haymon who seemingly went out of his way to be indifferent to media desires and expectations.

So, with the media digging in against them, declaring them on the brink of bankruptcy seemingly every other week, and the aesthetic changes rubbing hardcore fans the wrong way, PBC struggled.

Forget the BS talk about mismatches and poor matchmaking, PBC was no more guilty of that than any other boxing company. They were getting bashed mercilessly because of who was at the helm and because of what their success could’ve meant to the status quo.

This recently inked Fox deal, however, allows for a second chance at making a first impression. They’ll likely have to battle the boxing media again and, of course, continue on that uphill battle to win back the interest of the mainstream sports fan, but the towel on bringing boxing back to the masses—for free—has not been thrown in just yet.

And, as always, I’ll be rooting for anything and anyone willing to take down paywalls for the fans and take the sport I love to the masses.

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  1. thrashem 06:01am, 09/05/2018

    Good article Paul, keep up the fight!

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