By Keith Idec
Showtime announced a considerable boxing victory over HBO on Monday.
After a long battle between the premium-cable rivals, Showtime essentially revealed it won a bidding war with HBO to secure the U.S. rights to televise the Anthony Joshua-Wladimir Klitschko heavyweight title fight live April 29 from a sold-out Wembley Stadium in London. HBO will air a same-day replay of the Joshua-Klitschko fight April 29.
Showtime’s broadcast is scheduled to start at 4:15 p.m. ET and 1:15 p.m. PT on April 29. HBO’s re-broadcast will begin at 10:45 p.m. ET/PT.
Though it wasn’t mentioned in the announcement, it is believed that as part of the agreement HBO would have the U.S. broadcast rights to televise a Joshua-Klitschko rematch live. Should a rematch take place, Showtime would broadcast a same-day replay.
“I'm extremely happy and thankful that our respective U.S. TV partners Showtime and HBO reached an agreement,” said Bernd Boente, Managing Director of Klitschko Management Group. “This happened before in the Mayweather vs. Pacquiao and the Lewis vs. Tyson fights and shows you the magnitude of our event at Wembley Stadium on April 29.”
"I'm delighted to announce this historic deal that will see Britain's biggest ever fight shown on both HBO and SHOWTIME in the U.S.,” said Eddie Hearn of Matchroom Sport. “It takes a special fight to break down barriers and boundaries but also networks and executives who believe in working with the best interest of fight fans in mind. With the obstacles in place it would have been any easy resolution to not air the fight in the States but I want to thank HBO and Showtime for their perseverance and allowing America to see one hell of a fight at our national stadium in front on 90,000 passionate fans. Joshua vs. Klitschko is a fight for the ages and we look forward to the show!"
"We are thrilled to be delivering Joshua vs. Klitschko to the U.S. audience live on SHOWTIME,” said Stephen Espinoza, Executive Vice President and General Manager, SHOWTIME Sports. “On the afternoon of April 29, U.S. sports fans will be able to tune in to SHOWTIME to join a record-breaking crowd of 90,000 at Wembley Stadium and a worldwide television audience in witnessing an event that represents not only the contesting of the heavyweight world championship, but potentially the changing of the guard in the most influential division in boxing. We are proud to be Anthony Joshua’s exclusive U.S. television partner as he attempts to establish his legacy against the legendary Wladimir Klitschko, live on SHOWTIME CHAMPIONSHIP BOXING, as Showtime continues its unrivaled commitment to the sport."
Said Peter Nelson, executive vice president, HBO Sports: "Both promoters and both networks have found a solution that enables boxing fans in the U.S. to watch the world heavyweight championship. This agreement ensures that our subscribers have access to same-day primetime coverage of the fight. It will mark Wladimir Klitschko’s 22nd appearance on HBO and the first for Anthony Joshua.”
Showtime has a multi-fight agreement with England’s Joshua (18-0, 18 KOs), but that deal doesn’t guarantee Showtime the U.S. rights to broadcast a fight against Ukraine’s Klitschko (64-4, 53 KOs).
HBO has televised 21 Klitschko fights since July 2000, but passed on broadcasting several of the former champion’s less attractive title defenses in recent years. HBO has, however, aired each of the 41-year-old Klitschko’s last three fights – his loss to Tyson Fury in November 2015, as well as his wins against Bryant Jennings in April 2015 and Kubrat Pulev in November 2014.
The long-awaited announcement Friday confirmed several weeks’ worth of industry-wide speculation that Showtime would offer the live telecast of boxing’s biggest heavyweight title fight since Lennox Lewis-Mike Tyson in June 2002. Showtime’s Stephen Espinoza told a group of reporters two weeks ago in New York that he was confident Showtime would televise Joshua-Klitschko live.
The joint announcement was delayed due to minor disagreements over what were perceived as competitive advantages for one network or the other.
No matter when it was announced, this will be viewed as a win for Showtime in its uphill battle against HBO in the business of broadcasting boxing.
Showtime has narrowed the gap between the networks recently by consistently televising competitive, entertaining fights on a more frequent basis, but HBO’s boxing programming still typically produces higher ratings. HBO has about 32 million subscribers in the United States, approximately eight million more than Showtime.
Sky Sports Box Office will air Joshua-Klitschko live on pay-per-view in the United Kingdom. Approximately 90,000 tickets have been sold for their April 29 fight at Wembley Stadium.
Keith Idec is a senior writer/columnist for BoxingScene.com. He can be reached on Twitter @Idecboxing.