By Keith Idec
Stephen Espinoza welcomes the competition from the streaming services now offering boxing.
Theoretically, if ESPN+ and DAZN can create new boxing fans through those expansive platforms, that should benefit traditional television networks that broadcast the sport. Espinoza, Showtime Sports’ president, has reservations, however, about the quality of fights the aforementioned streaming services will be able to provide on a consistent basis.
ESPN+, which costs $4.99 per month, mostly streams fights that feature boxers promoted by Bob Arum’s Top Rank Inc., ESPN’s partner. DAZN, available for $9.99 per month, has a huge boxing budget, yet is slowly expanding its roster of fighters through its partnership with Eddie Hearn’s Matchroom Boxing.
“I think there are sort of two things that concern me about all these different platforms,” Espinoza told BoxingScene.com in a wide-ranging interview this week. “One is you don’t want the sport to become so watered down that you lose fans. So the advantage of being a big platform, like ESPN, or having a big marketing budget like a streaming service does, is great. You might be able to attract new people. But when you bring in new fans into the sport and you’ve got watered-down product, and it’s not the best product, you’re doing the sport a disservice.
“Bringing in new fans to the sport is only a good thing if you’re bringing them in and showing something which is gonna make them enthusiastic about the sport. You bring ‘em in and show ‘em a mismatch, you show ‘em second- and third-tier fights, it’s not gonna be good for the health of the sport. So I think everyone coming into the sport and becoming more active is great, as long as they’re doing quality fights, which lead to more fans.”
In its first month, DAZN will stream cards headlined by the Anthony Joshua-Alexander Povetkin heavyweight title fight (September 22) and the Billy Joe Saunders-Demetrius Andrade middleweight championship match (October 20).
The biggest fight streamed thus far on ESPN+ has been the Terence Crawford-Jeff Horn welterweight title fight June 9.
Showtime, meanwhile, has televised Deontay Wilder-Luis Ortiz, Jarrett Hurd-Erislandy Lara, Adrien Broner-Jessie Vargas, Adonis Stevenson-Badou Jack, the Leo Santa Cruz-Abner Mares rematch and Mikey Garcia’s victories over Sergey Lipinets and Robert Easter Jr. as its main events in recent months.
“It doesn’t really change what we do,” Espinoza said of the emerging competition from streaming services. “Our goal is always to put on the best fights and provide the best programming. We welcome competition. There’s always gonna be competition. I don’t think it would be healthy for the sport for Showtime to be the only network that’s doing it. That wouldn’t be good, either.”
Keith Idec is a senior writer/columnist for BoxingScene.com. He can be reached on Twitter @Idecboxing.