By Jake Donovan
The fantastic 12-round war between Keith Thurman and Shawn Porter made this much clear: “One Time” and “Showtime” were fit for primetime.
Final ratings for the Fight of the Year candidate that emerged from the June 25 headliner at Barclays Center in Brooklyn, New York have confirmed early indications of the welterweight title affair serving as the most watched bout of 2016 to date. Nielsen Media Research has shown that the CBS-televised affair averaged 3.1 million viewers, with a peak audience of 3.94 million viewers tuning in towards the end of the thrilling battle.
Thurman prevailed by 12-round unanimous decision to retain his unbeaten record and welterweight title. He has also developed as a ratings draw for the Premier Boxing Champions (PBC) series, which has been wildly inconsistent overall since its inception in early 2015 but has produced big hits when putting its best foot forward.
The two highest-rated bouts under the PBC banner have both featured Thurman in the headliner. In fact, the only other PBC-related bout to enjoy a higher TV rating was the series’ very first main event, when the unbeaten Floridian outpointed Robert Guerrero in their NBC primetime-televised title fight last March.
Prior to June 25, CBS has sparingly showcased PBC events on Saturday afternoons, along with two Sunday afternoon telecasts. None have come since last Labor Day weekend, although the wait for the CBS primetime event wasn’t supposed to take place this late in the year.
The show was originally slated to air on March 12 at Mohegan Sun Casino in Uncasville, Conn. Those plans were pushed back when Thurman (27-0, 22KOs) was forced to withdraw after suffering injuries sustained in a car crash in Florida this past February.
As a result, both fighters were put on ice until a new network date – and location – was made available. It turned out to be a blessing in disguise for the CBS/Showtime family, as well as the Barclays Center, which not only landed the event but also used the media availability to launch plans for a “Brooklyn Boxing” series to officially roll out this summer.
The night was a win for the venue: in addition to hosting a thrilling in-ring affair, the crowd of more than 14,000 generated $1.1 million in ticket sales, the largest live gate for a boxing event at Barclays since opening its doors to the sport in 2012.
Adding to the success, Thurman’s close win over Porter (26-2-1, 16KOs) turned out to the second-most watched boxing main event in primetime since 1998, when Golden Boy Promotions held a one-off “Oscar’s Night At the Fights” on Fox in primetime to compete with the 1998 Academy Awards (more commonly known as “The Oscars” – hence the play on the Fox title).
Perhaps the most telling statistic of the June 25 bout was the audience growing over the course of the main event, perhaps attributable to positive word of mouth. The second half of the contest as well as the final decision announcement averaged 3.5 million viewers while creeping into – and just past – the 11:00 p.m. hour on the East Coast.
Despite the success, CBS – which previously hadn’t aired boxing live in primetime since 1978 – has yet to announce if future dates are in store. The next major event under the CBS Corp Inc. banner will take place July 30 on the group’s flagship cable network Showtime, also at Barclays Center as Leo Santa Cruz and Carl Frampton collide in a battle of unbeaten, with Santa Cruz’ featherweight title at stake.
As for boxing in primetime on free TV:
- Fox will play host to Deontay Wilder’s heavyweight title defense versus Chris Arreola on July 16 in Birmingham, Alabama;
- NBC returns August 21, in a bout coming just before the primetime slots, as unbeaten welterweight contender Errol Spence faces Leonardo Bundu in a title eliminator. The bout will air live from the Coney Island section of Brooklyn, New York, in a special Sunday evening edition of PBC on NBC immediately following network coverage of the 2016 Rio Olympics.
Jake Donovan is the managing editor of BoxingScene.com. Follow his shiny new Twitter account: @JakeNDaBox_v2