By Keith Idec
Top Rank’s move from HBO to ESPN was supposed to expose Vasyl Lomachenko to more viewers.
Lomachenko’s seven-round domination of overmatched Miguel Marriaga was watched by fewer viewers Saturday night on ESPN than his previous fight on HBO. According to final ratings released by Nielsen Media Research on Tuesday morning, an average audience of 728,000 watched Lomachenko’s victory over Marriaga – about 104,000 less people than tuned in for his last fight.
HBO’s broadcast of the WBO super featherweight champion’s nine-round, one-sided stoppage of Jason Sosa drew an average of 832,000 viewers April 8 from Oxon Hill, Maryland. That telecast peaked at 886,000 viewers.
ESPN, a basic-cable channel, has a much wider reach than HBO, a premium-cable channel, because it is available in nearly three times as many homes in the United States (roughly 87 million to approximately 32 million).
Though executives for Bob Arum’s Top Rank, Lomachenko’s promoter, expected ratings for Lomachenko-Marriaga to be higher, viewership was adversely affected by a channel switch when the broadcast began and the time at which their main event started.
ESPN’s telecast of the Pro Football Hall of Fame induction ceremonies from Canton, Ohio, ran more than an hour late, which caused ESPN to shift the beginning of the Lomachenko-Marriaga telecast to ESPN2.
ESPN2’s coverage didn’t start until nearly 30 minutes following the scheduled start time of 10 p.m. ET/7 p.m. PT. That portion of the telecast included Ray Beltran’s majority-decision victory over Bryan Vasquez in a 10-round lightweight fight.
Top Rank’s doubleheader eventually switched over to ESPN, which is watched by more viewers than ESPN2. But the Lomachenko-Marriaga match didn’t begin until nearly 12:20 a.m. Sunday on the East Coast – even later than most pay-per-view main events start.
The fact that Ukraine’s Lomachenko (9-1, 7 KOs) was such a heavy favorite could’ve impacted ratings as well. The two-time Olympic gold medalist won as easily as expected against Colombia’s Marriaga (25-3, 21 KOs), who was knocked down once apiece in the third and seventh rounds before declining to come out of his corner for the start of the eighth round.
The first main event of Top Rank’s new partnership with ESPN – Manny Pacquiao’s controversial loss to Jeff Horn – drew a peak audience of 4.4 million viewers July 1 from Brisbane, Australia. Unlike Lomachenko, though, Pacquiao established himself as one of boxing’s biggest draws long ago and hadn’t participated in a non-pay-per-view fight in nearly 12 years.
Keith Idec is a senior writer/columnist for BoxingScene.com. He can be reached on Twitter @Idecboxing.