Word in the industry is that ESPN2 will be going to time-buys after the month of May. After seeing the likes of NBC, NBC Sports Network and Spike TV get now paid quite handsomely to air boxing, the “Worldwide Leader” began wondering why it was still actually forking out money while other networks were getting paid. It’s no secret as to who would be purchasing the time: none other than Al Haymon, who has cut deals with the aforementioned entities and will inevitably announce a few more that will televise his “Premier Boxing Champions” series.
Just last year, after televising the heavyweight title fight between Bermane Stiverne and Chris Arreola, ESPN spoke of making more fights of this level and stepping up to the plate to offer much more lucrative license fees than they do for “Friday Night Fights” (which fall well under six-figures). For Stiverne-Arreola II, the network spent right around a half-million dollars.
ESPN2’s platform is huge; they are in the neighborhood of 100 million homes and while they didn’t pay a lot for their boxing broadcasts, they did provide a stage for promoters of all shapes and sizes to showcase younger talent. In turn, the talent could then hopefully develop well enough to make some real money on HBO and/or Showtime. For promoters, it was a loss leader (as the license fees for these broadcasts were generally in the range between $55,000-to-$65,000) but a chance to build and invest in their fighters.
Now, for independent promoters who have decided not to be engulfed by Haymon, this avenue has been cut off (UCNLive.com asked Brian Kweder, ESPN’s Senior Director of Programming and Acquisitions, for a comment on this matter. He declined to give comment via email).
This new deal for ESPN – which, for years, has been instrumental in building the sport’s biggest stars since the 1980s, starting with their “Top Rank Boxing” series – is a no-brainer in many ways. Sure, they will receive guaranteed revenue for this time slot but the truth of the matter is boxing lost its importance to the decision makers in Bristol, Conn. and the Disney Corporation a long time ago.
As for Haymon, ESPN is not just another network to showcase his ever-expanding roster of boxers. Just as importantly, he chokes off the ability of other promoters to showcase theirs. It’s boxing’s version of the “Scorched Earth Policy.” His grand plan – which many believed was to just get his fighters on terrestrial airwaves – is really about monopolizing the boxing business eventually. This is part of why he has signed seemingly every available fighter on the market. Hey, to have a league, you need opponents and cannon fodder just as you much as you need stars and marquee names.
And with Haymon changing the paradigm of the business – in this case, the ability of promoters getting a few bucks to televise their products, he further pushes those he views as competitors out of the industry.
Talk about a hostile and expensive takeover.
This is a game of Monopoly and Haymon has plans of acquiring everything from Baltic Ave. to Boardwalk and Park Place.
The kicker is that Haymon isn’t even doing it with his own money (which is actually the genius of this plan) but various investors who have given him a war chest of at least a couple hundred million dollars. Yes, you read that correctly. Hey, world domination is expensive.
A boxing insider explained, “Al’s model is, ‘I want to wipe out the existing business. So I wipe out the existing business; I give my product away for free and I make it so that they don’t pay for it. There’s no revenue stream for other people, so therefore they can’t do events. Then everyone will have to come to me and then I’ll restructure this thing when I have everybody.’
“So he’ll decide to just destroy the entire industry and hope that it gets everybody to go with him because no one else has an outlet to provide content.”
It’s clear that Haymon wants to develop a UFC model for the sport of boxing and become the only game in town (at least in the States). Whether or not he accomplishes that remains to be seen. For as much buzz as Haymon has created, the reality is what’s currently taking place has nothing to do with networks making a commitment to the sport. It’s about getting paid to put it on their airwaves. It will be interesting to see the sustainability of this model in the long run. Meanwhile, those who are not under his umbrella (whether that be HBO, Top Rank Promotions, Golden Boy Promotions, Main Events, Banner Promotions and Gary Shaw Productions) will do their best to stave off this takeover.
Whether he succeeds or fails, he’ll laugh all the way to the bank.
Boxing lost one of its truly good men with the recent passing of “Office” Joe Dwyer. No one in this oft-cutthroat business had a bad thing to say about him and that says a lot. He will be greatly missed… Don’t know what this means (and again, I know nothing) but I’m hearing that Floyd Mayweather Jr.-Manny Pacquiao is trending up again…Monty Meza Clay just recently became another Haymon fighter. Yeah, Al isn’t stopping…Magic Johnson is no fan of Jim Buss, huh?…What does “The Noid” think of Domino’s Pizza now going by simply “Domino’s”?…I can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and I tweet (a lot) at twitter.com/steveucnlive. I also share photos of stuff at instagram.com/steveucnlive and can also be found at tsu.co/steveucnlive.