It was quite nice to see boxing featured on the airwaves of the WorldWide Leader in the televised sports sphere on Saturday night, and many folks were curious if that judgement would be shared by the masses.
How will the show do, numbers wise, the inside baseball crew wondered…
They got some news Tuesday morning, with the results coming in and coming off as disappointing to some, “I told ya so” crappy to others and “this is a decent starting point” to some others still…
ShowBuzzDaily.com was first out of the blocks, showing the PBC on ESPN show averaged 799,000 viewers, a number which would not have been out of place for a Showtime card. Of course, ESPN proper is available on more than three times as many TVs as the pay cabler, so that has to be factored in when assessing numbers and determining success or failure. The naysayers and those who believe that the PBC model is flawed, and market skewing, and unable to be sustained for a long run, noted that “Flea Market Flip” bettered the Keith Thurman-Luis Collazo topped event, and “Sharksanity” positively thrashed it.
A well-placed source told me a bit after that report came out, however, that the event averaged 1.2 million viewers at peak viewing time, putting it more in line with some HBO card results, thought their top events AVERAGE more than that number. Again, ESPN is in many more homes than HBO, but as ESPN’s Dan Rafael pointed out, while deeming this events penetration scale as decent, “the #PBConESPN numbers are a good start. #Boxing fans need to get used to seeing major names/fights on ESPN, which is new for us.”
Makes some sense…people do get used to seeing the products they use and like in particular spots, and it can take some getting used to when your corner convenient store closes, and you have to go elsewhere to pick up Oreos.
Main Events exec Nicole Duva, no stranger to publicly opining that she thinks the PBC model is flawed and toxic for the sport as a whole, noted on Twitter that, “ESPN paid $500k for Arreola-Stiverne last year. 940,000 viewers. PBC paid just Thurman & Collazo $2 mil. 799,000 viewers.”
My sense is that within ESPN walls, but of course they would have liked to hit a home run, duh, but getting over the million mark is something to build on. What they have to like, being that they are in the business to make money, is that they were paid for use of their platform. Thus, one would surmise that how ratings are evaluated changes in their heads. Now, if the network gets numbers beneath what they typically get running this and that on Saturday in primetime, that could devalue the brand, and even if they are getting paid to be the stage for PBC fighters, they might decide to end that arrangement after two years.
But I do think most everyone reacts with a “microwave” mentality–patience is neither treasured not encouraged when we talk ratings, when we assess this PBC model…and I do think it should be, because the Haymon plan, I think, is in effect with around a three-year window in mind. I think it’d be most fair to really judge where we are after, say, one year, though I do acknowledge that is not a message that will be embraced by other players affected by PBC switches in environment. Like, say, boxers holding out because they want bigger purses, because they look across the aisle, and see what Uncle Al is paying. The people who do business with those boxers, and are engaged in legal tussles with them, they don’t want to hear that patience is virtuous and we have to see how things play out.
Bottom line, I will say what I have said from the get go. It’s about the fighters, and the fights. With ratings, it’s especially about the fights. If moving forward, we get A Side vs A Side clashes, coinflip specials, then I expect the numbers will be more generous. Yep, brain surgery, ain’t it? Great fights typically get great ratings. And having seen so many PBC cards, I would have thought and hoped we would have tuned in to one obvious Fight of the Year candidate…and no, Quilin-Lee was not close to that, and Thurman-Guerrero wasn’t a close fight, let alone a classic.
I do think the PBC crew is moving toward that A vs A mindset, as witnessed by the Double A side Broner-Porter tiff, and talk of an Amir Khan-Keith Thurman faceoff. I feel like the PBC gang is caught in the middle of an identity crisis, between the old model of building a fighter into an attraction based mostly on a glittering record, and what I think the new model could/should be, that the fights are the attraction, and fans will come if you are offering them compelling, evenly-matched scraps.