ESPN Looks To Alter Visibility, Economics Of Boxing On TV With Top Rank Deal
ESPN's deal with Top Rank, which "will bring 18 fights" to ESPN nets next year, will "aim to alter the economics and visibility of boxing, while giving ESPN dozens of hours of relatively cheap programming," according to Kevin Draper of the N.Y. TIMES. The amount ESPN will pay over the course of the four-year deal is "estimated to be less than the cost of a single 'Monday Night Football' game." While the agreement with Top Rank is "minuscule compared with other broadcast rights deals, so far it has provided ESPN with good value." ESPN usually "falls prey to its partners at the major sports leagues that set the scheduling." The boxing deal is an "opportunity to dictate scheduling." Top Rank "doesn’t particularly care on which Saturday nights its bouts take place." It "happily created a card" for after the Heisman Trophy ceremony, and "future cards are built around" the Super Bowl and the NBA All-Star Game. What ESPN and Top Rank can do is "smooth out boxing’s valleys by obtaining something that has so far eluded the sport: advertising dollars." Rather than having ESPN "sell 30-second commercials and having Top Rank sell sponsorship of the ring stanchions and venue signs, the two will be engaged in a 'collaborative process' to sell everything possible." CAA Sports "will lead the sales process." Potentially "more transformative to the sport than showing the fights is everything else the agreement contains." While "little of it has been finalized," ESPN and Top Rank will "develop some combination of pre- and postfight shows." There will be “'College GameDay'-like boxing shows, and original boxing programming" (N.Y. TIMES, 12/18).