The most rampant rumor in boxing was confirmed Tuesday afternoon, when it was revealed that Showtime will no longer broadcast the sport after 2023.
BoxingScene.com has confirmed that Paramount Global, the parent company of Showtime and BoxingScene.com, will eliminate Showtime Sports as a department by the end of this year. Sports Business Journal first reported the news Tuesday afternoon.
The premium cable network has televised boxing since March 1986, when it aired Marvin Hagler’s 11th-round knockout of John Mugabi, and it has remained one of the sport’s most prominent platforms for nearly four decades. Showtime has had a particularly successful run since it signed Floyd Mayweather to an exclusive six-fight deal for the undefeated superstar to headline its pay-per-view shows in February 2013.
Paramount Global’s decision was based on the company focusing exclusively on scripted programming moving forward and eliminating eight-figure annual budgets previously allocated for live sports, primarily “Showtime Championship Boxing” and Bellator, an MMA promotional company that Paramount Global also owns. The positions of nearly 40 employees in Showtime Sports will be eliminated after December 29.
By December, Showtime and HBO, the sport’s two most prominent platforms for many years, will have exited the sport five years apart. HBO announced that it would stop televising boxing in September 2018 and aired its last live show in December of that year.
Showtime has two more boxing telecasts scheduled for November 25 and December 9 as part of the network’s exclusive content agreement with Al Haymon’s Premier Boxing Champions.
The November 25 pay-per-view show will be headlined by super middleweights David Benavidez and Demetrius Andrade at Mandalay Bay Resort and Casino’s Michelob ULTRA Arena in Las Vegas. The fights for its December 9 event, probably a pay-per-view show as well, have not been determined, but it will likely be held at MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas.
Stephen Espinoza, Showtime’s president of sports and event programming, issued a statement to BoxingScene.com and other outlets once the news became public knowledge Tuesday afternoon.
“It is with profound disappointment that I shared this morning’s news that the company has decided to shut down Showtime Sports at the end of this year,” said Espinoza, who has headed Showtime Sports since November 2011. “For over 37 years, Showtime Sports and Event Programming has occupied an important position in the sports media ecosystem, delivering premium storytelling, bold and provocative documentaries, thoughtful analysis and discussion and, of course, outstanding live production of the biggest combat sports in history. We have helped illuminate the intersection of sports, culture and society, and we have boldly and unapologetically explored stories and themes that others couldn’t or wouldn’t. And we have done it all with the highest standards of care and quality.
“The company’s decision is not a reflection of the work that we have done in recent years, nor our long and proud history. It is not an indictment on the value we have delivered to this network for 37 years, nor, in particular, in 2023. Unfortunately, in a rapidly evolving media marketplace, the company has had to make difficult choices allocating resources, resetting priorities and reshaping its content offering.”
Espinoza emphasized that while the network had one of its strongest years in boxing in recent memory – particularly with pay-per-view events that were headlined by Gervonta Davis and Ryan Garcia, Terence Crawford and Errol Spence Jr. and Canelo Alvarez and Jermell Charlo – factors outside of his department led to Paramount Global’s decision.
“While today’s news is certainly difficult and disappointing, it is entirely out of our control,” Espinoza said. “So, as we have done when faced with similar challenges in the past, we will control the things that we can control. We will continue to deliver on our promise to subscribers and our content partners for the remainder of the year; namely to continue to deliver the highest quality, industry-leading boxing programming that has established us as the unequivocal No. 1 destination for the sport worldwide and to finish what we started in 2023, perhaps the best year in our department’s history.
“From Emmy Award-winning documentaries to the three highest-grossing pay-per-view events in television history, I am extremely proud of our content and our events – but I am far more proud of our people. [Their] diligence, dedication and passion have inspired me every day, and it is those qualities that will be the enduring legacy of Showtime Sports.”
Showtime and HBO were co-distributors of the Mayweather-Manny Pacquiao extravaganza, which produced a record 4.6 million pay-per-view buys in May 2015. Mayweather-Pacquiao made more than $600 million in overall revenue, far and away a boxing record.
Showtime later exclusively distributed Mayweather’s win over UFC superstar Conor McGregor, which generated 4.3 million pay-per-view buys in August 2017. The network previously partnered with HBO on the Lennox Lewis-Mike Tyson heavyweight title fight, which produced nearly two million buys in June 2002.
Keith Idec is a senior writer/columnist for BoxingScene.com. He can be reached on Twitter @Idecboxing.