By Jake Donovan
HBO and SHOWTIME have done a great job of staying out of each other’s way for the most part during the 2014 boxing season, and for good reason. Historically, the two networks wind up eating into the other’s audience when presenting dueling boxing broadcasts, which is never good for the sport.
A down year for the sport as a whole ended with a bang, however, as fans tuned in on December 13, with both networks providing live broadcast barely a mile apart in Las Vegas. The overall numbers provided better news for SHOWTIME, who—even if not directly winning the head-to-head battle—reminded its rival and the boxing world as a whole that it’s still very much a two-horse race for the top spot.
Topping the list, Tim Bradley and Diego Chaves fought to a highly disputed 12-round draw in turned out to be the most watched bout of the weekend, averaging 966,000 households and peaking at just under 1.1 million viewers.
Their bout topped a live tripleheader on HBO from The Cosmopolitan in Las Vegas. The overall show averaged 841,000 viewers on the night, marking the second lowest-rated HBO World Championship Boxing event of 2014.
Bradley and Chaves were both coming off of losses entering the bout. The telecast marked Bradley's first live appearance on HBO since last March—his 2013 Fight of the Year thriller with Ruslan Provodnikov—having appeared on consecutive Pay-Per-View headliners in between. His last ring appearance came in April, dropping a 12-round decision to Manny Pacquiao in their anticipated rematch.
Chaves appeared on HBO for his second consecutive bout. The Argentine brawler enjoyed a much better performance than his last showing, a 9th round disqualification loss in an awkward, ugly affair with Brandon Rios in the very same venue in August.
On the other side of town—and the dial—Amir Khan delivered a brilliant boxing performance in scoring a wide unanimous decision win over Devon Alexander. The bout drew an average of 762,000 households, peaking at 887,000 viewers.
The bout was marketed as an unofficial eliminator in the Floyd Mayweather sweepstakes. Khan plead his case in the ring, and as it turned out in the ratings as well. The former 140 lb. titlist appeared on a live Showtime (non-PPV) broadcast for the first time since an April' 13 win over Julio Diaz.
His lone bout since then came in May, scoring a lopsided decision over Luis Collazo in the chief support of a SHOWTIME PPV, headlined by Mayweather's thrilling win over Marcos Maidana in their first bout.
As HBO won the head-to-head battle, SHOWTIME performed no worse than on par considering that the former boasts roughly 25% more subscribers.
The evening marked just the second time both networks presented conflicting live broadcasts. The only other occassion came in January, when SHOWTIME kicked off the 2014 season with a televised doubleheader from Washington D.C., while HBO played Madison Square Garden Theatre in New York City.
All ratings data above is provided by Nielsen Media Research.
Jake Donovan is the Managing Editor of Boxingscene.com, as well as a member of Transnational Boxing Ratings Board and the Boxing Writers Association of America. Twitter: @JakeNDaBox