By Jake Donovan
Among the positive points that came from Saturday's edition of Premier Boxing Champion (PBC) on NBC was the emergence of Errol Spence Jr. as a major threat in the welterweight division. The unbeaten 2012 U.S. Olympian played to rave reviews in a five-round wipeout of former 140-pound titlist Chris Algieri at Barclays Center in Brooklyn, New York.
As brilliant as was Spence's in-ring performance, ratings for the night strongly indicate that the PBC brass needs to reevaluate the formula in place for boxing on NBC. The primetime telecast struggled mightily in the ratings, drawing a preliminary average of just 1.24 million viewers and a 0.3 rating among the coveted 'Adults 18-49' market over the course of the show, which ran from 8:30-11:00 p.m. ET.
Adding insult to injury was the fact that it lost in a head-to-head battle with the latest installment of UFC on Fox, which averaged 2.13 million viewers during its two-hour telecast from 8:00-10:00 p.m. ET. The UFC card won the night in the 18-49 market, drawing an 0.8 rating, a normal figure for a broadcast on a Saturday evening, which is never a big night for TV ratings.
It was once a success for the PBC series on NBC, at least coming out the gate. The debut installment saw Keith Thurman's 12-round win over Robert Guerrero play to 3.2 million viewers, peaking at 4 million. Its follow up saw a slight dip, but still reason to smile when Danny Garcia's narrow points victory over Lamont Peterson last April drew an average of 2.9 million viewers, peaking at 3.4 million.
The Garcia-Peterson card took place just over a year ago, with ratings on NBC having steadily declined through six primetime telecasts. Saturday's show didn't retain even half of the audience produced by the similarly slotted show this time last year. It was also a massive drop from the 2.259 million viewers pulled in by Garcia in his 12-round victory over Guerrero in the official kickoff show for the PBC on Fox primetime series which debuted in January.
Spence's win over Algieri was, naturally, the most viewed fight of the night, with the final hour of the telecast averaging 1.482 million viewers. The bout was supported by Krzysztof Glowacki's four knockdown, unanimous decision victory over Steve Cunningham and Marcus Browne's disputed points win over Radivoje Kalazjdic in a light heavyweight clash that saw both boxers credited with knockdowns.
The April 16 edition of PBC on NBC was the first of the year, having last played in primetime on Dec. 12, when Omar Figueroa edged out Antonio DeMarco over 12 thrilling rounds in San Antonio. The bout was preceded by a sea of bad publicity due to the mystery of the main event weight limit that was changed by eight pounds during fight week unbeknownst to viewers, media and even most involved in the promotion itself.
With that came a disappointing pull of 1.817 million viewers, the lone NBC primetime telecast to fail to crack 2 million viewers. The network now has to make that claim for the second straight time, with work to be done ahead of its next announced primetime date of June 18, with bouts and location to be determined.
As for Spence, he continues to shine and has been among the benefactors of the PBC movement. The bout was his fifth straight televised appearance under the format, four of which have come on NBC. Saturday marked his debut as a TV headliner. Given the rave reviews from his performance, it's likely that his next ring appearance is met with greater interest, especially if he is moved in the direction of a title shot. Spence was blunt in calling out unbeaten welterweight titlists Kell Brook (for whom he is the #1 ranked contender) and Garcia, while the show's promoter Lou DiBella insisted to media on hand that he would favor the New York-born, Texas-bred boxer even over the winner of the June 25 CBS-primetime televised clash between Keith Thurman and Shawn Porter.
With plenty of options from which to choose, the future is bright for Spence. Let's hope the same can be said for boxing on NBC, which for the moment is on the ropes.
Jake Donovan is the managing editor of BoxingScene.com. Twitter: @JakeNDaBox