By Jake Donovan
Showtime’s ratings are still down from where they were this time last year, but the network continues to proceed with an aggressive schedule and big plans – both short- and long-term for the future.
The April 30 edition of Showtime Championship Boxing – which aired live from D.C. Armory in Washington D.C. - was more about an investment into a bigger show down the road, with Badou Jack and James Degale on course for a super middleweight title unification bout later this year. Both escaped with belts still intact, with ratings for the doubleheader improving from a preceding telecast two weeks earlier.
Jack was considered the unfortunate victim of a majority draw verdict in a title defense versus former champ Lucian Bute, in a bout most felt should have went his way with room to spare. The 12-round headlining bout averaged 336,000 viewers, peaking at 400,000 for Jack’s first appearance in a SCB main event, having previously appeared on ShoBox and Showtime’s Pay-Per-View arm.
Despite having to settle for a draw, the Las Vegas-based Swede remains champ – making the second successful defense of his super middleweight title – and moving forward with his first career unification bout.
That moment will come versus Degale, whose third consecutive start outside of England came in a hard-fought decision win over Rogelio ‘Porky’ Medina. The co-feature attraction played to an average of 342,000 viewers, peaking at 397,000 for a back-and-forth battle most felt was much closer than the scorecards of 115-113, 116-112 and 117-111 indicated.
All ratings data provided by Nielsen Media Research.
As was the case with Showtime’s April 16 telecast – which struggled mightily in the ratings – Saturday’s card immediately followed a primetime edition of Premier Boxing Champions (PBC) on network TV. The April 16 airing of PBC on NBC ran from 8:30-11:00 p.m. ET, forcing a late start time for Showtime, resulting in poor ratings for the doubleheader from Foxwoods Casino in Mashantucket, Conn.
The April 30 card went on air at 10:00 p.m. ET, but was forced to delay the start of the opening bout due to the preceding PBC on Fox telecast running more than 10 minutes long.
The formula of boxing on free network TV cross-promoting with a trailing Showtime boxing event has yet to prove successful, but the network remains ambitious amidst a loaded spring schedule with even bigger news to come this summer.
A big part of the optimism can be tied to strong support from its parent company, CBS Corp Inc., which announced a very strong opening 1st quarter and its stock value performing well.
"CBS delivered a spectacular quarter as we continue to execute on our strategy of creating and distributing the content that audiences have to have," CBS chairman and CEO Leslie Moonves said in a statement. "We had double-digit revenue growth, and we set records in all key profit measures, with EPS coming in above a dollar for the first time in our company's history."
While the American cable giant may be experiencing a slow rebuilding period following last year’s launching of the PBC brand on various platforms, brighter days most certainly lie ahead for the future of the network. The same holds true for the slew of fighters it continues to showcase in building towards big fights – an experience Badou Jack and James Degale will get to enjoy in the second half of 2016.
Jake Donovan is the managing editor of BoxingScene.com. Twitter: @JakeNDaBox