A summer siesta for Showtime?
Showtime Sports has enjoyed a very strong 2017, for the most part, regarding its boxing programming. They have consistently given their subscribers good, quality boxing (OK, save for that Adonis Stevenson blowout last weekend) and they’ve added another attractive fight to their schedule by announcing the July 29 junior welterweight encounter between Mikey Garcia and Adrien Broner.
As for the rest of the dog days, the head of Showtime Sports Stephen Espinoza told UCNLive.com, “We’ll probably do an August ‘ShoBox’ but, other than that, we’ll skip August.”
This isn’t a rare occurrence. For the most part, both Showtime and HBO have traditionally stayed clear of programming boxing in the late summer months. But you wonder, given that, nowadays, you can essentially watch television without having to be plopped down on your couch at home by streaming various sporting events and shows via streaming on a multitude of devices – should there be a philosophical change, in terms of how those in charge view this period of time?
The belief in the past was that as July and August came, many people went on vacation; television viewing levels declined and networks just showed reruns all summer.
To this, Espinoza stated, “It’s funny you say that because, just looking at this for something unrelated, there’s been a fair amount of research and a lot of it has begun to call into question the sort of the historical assumption that the H.U.T levels – the households using television – are much lower in the summer months. If you just look over the last 10 years, there really isn’t a significant difference in summer versus the rest of the year.
“There is a difference in terms of which months have increased television levels, which are January and February, which sort of make sense, given that a large portion of the country is in pretty cold weather. July, if you had to pick a month, is the lowest but there’s not a significant difference.”
Remember when FOX put out new episodes of “Beverly Hills, 90210” in the summer of 1991 (yeah, I admit I was an avid fan of the show. Sue me) and it did robust ratings and created momentum that made that show into a hit? Well, that isn’t so unusual today. “The television industry, particularly cable, has begun to put on fresh programming, non-rerun programming in the summer. So if you give the television audience something to watch in the summer, they’ll watch. And even the broadcast networks have followed suit, so you’re right. If you look at the media market, it’s much more of a year-round schedule than, say, 10 years ago,” pointed out Espinoza.
Original episodes of “Ray Donovan” (a personal favorite of mine on Showtime) air in the summer and this year’s season of HBO’s “Game of Thrones” will begin its fourth season on July 16. Speaking of HBO, it will air live boxing this summer with cards on July 15 and Aug. 26.
One of the main gripes many have about the summer boxing siestas for the premium cable networks is, during this time of the year, heading into early September, there have been years when both networks will literally go six, seven or even eight weeks without broadcasting any live boxing.
Speaking of which, as the leaves turn and football gets into full gear, just how busy will Showtime be this fall? There is a chance they could air a September card. There has been talk of a Leo Santa Cruz-Abner Mares rematch at the Staples Center on Sept. 9. Then after that?
“The ‘month of death,’ so to speak, is October,” said Espinoza, citing not just college and pro football but the Major League Baseball playoffs and the World Series, as well as the beginning of the NHL and NBA seasons. “So you’ve got – especially in the second half of the month – five other major sports going on Saturday nights. So that, in particular, is one we stay away from. November is just as tough; you don’t have baseball but everything else is in full swing. So having said that, I think what it means is we’ll probably be lighter but not completely dark in October, maybe November, but our intention is not to disappear for those months.
“We work more heavily weighted towards the early part of the year, just because of the opportunities and the fights that are happening. We don’t really intend to let off the gas the second part of the year in a meaningful way.”
Regardless, Showtime has had a very good 2017 – perhaps its best in years.
“Obviously, I’ve got a relatively short history here but I rely on guys like David Dinkins (Senior Vice President and Executive Producer, Sports and Event Programming for Showtime) and Al Bernstein, who have been here literally for decades and when Al, in particular, says to me, ‘This is the strongest year we’ve had, in terms of programming,’ that he can recall, that carries a lot of weight,” said Espinoza.
“So it is something that we’re really proud of so far.”
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