Many of us lament the nichification of boxing, and trace much of that over the last two decades to the fact that boxing isn't featured on “free TV,” having been shifted to cable TV and even worse, pay-per-view status.
Before you respond with a, “Quit yer whining, your sport is old news, and the free market has decided boxing is outdated, and MMA is the bomb,” let me throw this at you. Did you know that only about 51% of Americans have cable TV? Shocking, right? Do the math on how many folks don't have cable, and thus really aren't able to get their fill of the sweet science. If you don't have HBO, or Showtime, or ESPN and don't have a cable box through which you can order the megabouts, well, you are basically out of luck. Smart people have figured this out, and have been working on trying to get back to a place where boxing is shown on “regular” TV, a smart move considering 97% of Americans own a television.
Among those smart people is promoter Kathy Duva, of New Jersey's Main Events. She did a deal last year with NBC's cable sports channel, NBC Sports Network, and has been running shows on their space this year. The response has been solid to the four episodes and proof of that is the announcement that NBC extended the Main Events contract, for two years, and will run up to 16 Main Events “Fight Night” shows, into 2014.
Maybe the best part of that news is that one card will run on NBC, on Dec. 22. Yep, good old free, don't-have-to-buy-any-basic-cable-package NBC.
That card, with participants to be announced, will run from 4-6 PM, a time period well-known to some of us who tuned in to the networks in the 70s and 80s, to Wide World of Sports, and similar magazine shows on NBC and CBS, and saw many fights that today would be offered on pay-per-view.
This has always been a no brainer to me, but I tend to have a grow-the-sport-for-the-sake-of-growing the sport mentality. Many folks, though,have a “grow the bottom line” mentality, and would rather scrape empty the wallets of fight junkies, and get them to pony up for PPV, rather than work to get advertisers to pony up, so sports fans don't have to carry such a financial burden.
Check back for a response from Kathy Duva, who has been working for many, many moons on getting the sweet science back to a place where the most eyeballs can get a gander at it.