With the Decision last year to award Matchroom sport all the available Sky dates, there has been a natural influx of fighters leaving promotional firms for Matchroom. leaving existing Sky TV promoters Hatton, Hennesey and Frank Maloney with no mainstream or established TV platform and battling to get their boxers fights with no TV money. Frank Warren’s deal with Sky has also ended and he left to set up Boxnation TV. Frank Warren stated that the money being offered by sky was going down and down, with a lack of competition this naturally happens, so decide to go and set up a channel that will try and give boxing fans the fight the fights they want.
So channel 5 had been a breath of fresh air. Hennessy sports, which represents boxers including Tyson Fury, James Degale and Chris Eubank Jr, struck a deal with C5 in 2011 after ITV pulled out of boxing on ITV4. Giving Hennessy sports a national TV station so that his boxers could gain mainstream publicity and us the fan’s had another outlet, other than pay for channels in the form of Sky and Boxnation, to watch boxing on TV. Worrying rumors have been flying that channel 5 had pulled out of boxing, which would be bad for the sport. For mainstream success then Boxing needs to be shown on mainstream TV to reach a wider audience. At the moment next Tyson Fury Vs Steve Cunningham April 20th IBF Heavyweight Title Eliminator for the No2 Spot is being shown on Channel 5. This is great, but hopefully not the end and the rumors are just that and C5 is in this for the long hall.
Day’s of Eubank, Benn, Collins and Watson on ITV got great viewing figures and gave the fighters mainstream success. The more people that watch boxing, the more likely there will be an increase in people following and participating, growing the sport. Look at these old viewing figures I know that there are more channels now and viewing figures are down on national TV channels, but if you take it the large audiences from then, that would still translate to a big audience now.
From The People newspaper in 2006
Ali v Frazier 1971 BBC 27.3
McGuigan v Cabrera 1986 BBC 18.3
McGuigan v Pedroza 1985 BBC 18.0
Eubank v Benn 1993 ITV 16.3
Malinga v Eubank 1992 ITV 13.3
Benn v McClellan 1995 ITV 13.1
Rocchigiani v Eubank 1994 ITV 12.3
Eubank v Close 1993 ITV 11.5
Eubank v Thornton 1992 ITV 10.3
Eubank v Holmes 1993 ITV 10.1
Bruno v Marin 1995 ITV 10.1
Amir Khan’s last fight before becoming professional against Mario Kindelan. Achieved a peak audience of 6.3 million viewers on ITV, encouraging ITV to reach a long-term agreement to show future Sports Network boxing promotions shows for a while.
Tyson Fury’s fight against Kevin Johnson in Belfast in December drew 1.4m viewers (5.74%), well above the channel’s 12 month slot average of 1.05m (4.93%). Fury vs Chisora did a peak audience of 3million.
Carl Froch and Jean Pascal the figures were roughy 2.9m and that was a World title Fight on ITV. All good viewing figures. The albatross around boxing neck in some ways is the BBC previous return to professional boxing after a 15 year absence with a 10 fight Audley Harrison deal. We all know how that turned sour but viewing figures were good at first, peaking at approximately 6 million, a respectable figure.
Boxnation had 240,000 subscribers for the Haye-Chisora fight last summer. Then, during the quiet period for boxing in December, January and early February dropped to 120,000. But Frank Warren say’s it’s rising again and will climb back above 200,000 fairly shortly, thats for a pay per view tv station.
I understand that Sky wanted bigger shows and was getting worried about the small hall boxing shows being showed every week with dropping viewing figures. But then why keep Prizefighter who’s viewing figures have been as low as 126,000. Surely promoters such as Dennis Hobson, David Coldwell, Carl Greeves, Steve Goodwin, Micky Helliet etc can put on a better show than these with great 50/50 match up’s. If you don’t want boxing show’s getting stale then, having one promoter is not the way to go about it. If you can pick from a selection of promoters they will have to offer exciting cards to get the slot. Guaranteeing someone show dates does not guarantee show quality. If there is good competition, the fan’s will get good match up’s and this will relate to viewing figures.
If Sky Proceed with one promotion company that will leave Eddie Hearn unable to sign more boxers as he will not have enough Sky dates to keep them active. Other boxers will suffer as without TV deal’s, promoters will struggle to put on shows. The figures how boxing get’s good viewing figures, I have heard that it can be difficult to film, but I would have though a studio for the commentators and ringside cameras would be fairly easy. When you look at say F1 viewing figures for the UK Australia, BBC 2011, 3.2m, SKY 2012 1.02m. Down 68% Malaysia BBC 2011 4.4m, SKY 2012 1.5m. Down 66%. Not massive audiences and how much does it cost to put on these shows???
As a license payer to the BBC and considering some of the minority sports they cover, how can it be right that the BBC finds no room in it’s budget for a sport that does so much for so many peoples lives. Boxing has long been associated with having the ability to get the young of the streets where they can cause trouble, into a gym, fit and disciplined. Quite simply peoples lifes can be turned around by this wonderful sport, it deserves better coverage doesn’t it?.
Without competition, we won’t get the fights the fan’s want, the boxers won’t get paid the money they deserve and promoters will continue to struggle. Let’s hope that Channel 5 commit again, ITV re-enters and Sky Sport splits the deal for the good of boxing. We need long term stability with boxing on these platforms continuously not 10 shows then off again. Their have been rumors that Eddie Hearn was easier to deal with for Sky and he fit’s in with their new school team, but I can’t see that Mick Hennessy would be any harder to deal with or a Dave Coldwell, Ricky Hatton etc. If the reason for TV getting involved and then pulling out again then promoters will need to change tactics and go for long term reward as opposed to short term gain with a hard fought negotiation, as a again stability is needed now to allow boxing to be the national sport it deserves to be and us the fan’s to get the fights we want to see. The figures are there, production cost’s can’t blamed and the fighters are doing their job. Somewhere between the respected heads of each TV channels and the promoters it’s going wrong.