In the absence of live in-ring action, Tyson Fury and Deontay Wilder once again delivered for boxing fans.
ESPN offered the exclusive rebroadcast of the entire four-fight Pay-Per-View event on Monday evening, with the three-hour block averaging 447,000 viewers according to Nielsen Media Research.
The figure lands the event as the best-performing PPV replay since December 2018, when the rebroadcast premier of their first fight averaged 488,000 viewers on Showtime one week after the network distributed the event live on its PPV arm. Showtime’s replay featured just the main event from that evening, whereas ESPN’s telecast featured the main event along with the three PPV preliminary contests.
England’s Fury (30-0-1, 21KOs) claimed a 7th round stoppage over Wilder (42-1-1, 41KOs) to dethrone the previously unbeaten and long-reigning heavyweight titlist in their February 22 rematch. The bout topped a joint PPV venture between ESPN and Fox Sports, airing live from MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas.
Industry estimates have the rematch landing between 750,000-800,000 PPV units sold, as previously reported by BoxingScene.com senior writer Keith Idec. The figure far eclipse that of the first fight, which generated a reported 325,000 PPV buys.
Monday’s rebroadcast came exactly one month to the day of the PPV event, a similar delay that was met with the re-airing of Terence Crawford’s 6th round stoppage of Amir Khan. Their bout took place last April, live on ESPN PPV from Madison Square Garden in New York City, airing just more than one month later on ESPN2 before being made available across ESPN platforms.
The practice far differs from the approach taken by Showtime and HBO before them, both of whom traditionally aired PPV main events one week after the original showing.
Fox Sports’ approach goes to the other extreme. Its four PPV events from 2019 were all met with three-month delays between first showing and exclusive rebroadcast. Because final PPV numbers are not released by Fox Sports—with all prior reports based on estimates from cable, satellite and digital providers—there has not been any clear indication as to whether the extended delay has proved beneficial in final sales.
Based on ratings, it has produced mixed results in terms of fans waiting three months before seeing it on TV. Fox Sports’ first PPV venture, topped by Errol Spence’s 12-round shutout of Mikey Garcia last March, averaged 151,000 viewers for its exclusive rebroadcast last July on FS1. The figure is the best among first-run replays for the four Fox Sports-exclusive PPV events.
The trend will be broken by Fox Sports with its own offering of Wilder-Fury II, which is expected to replay on its platforms beginning this Friday.
As for ESPN, the network will remain deep in the replay business. Wednesday evening’s offering carries a five-hour block of past events promoted by Top Rank, including Crawford-Khan, the December 14, 2019 tripleheader in its entirety—topped by Crawford’s 9th round stoppage of Egidijus Kavaliauskas—and the May 2015 superfight between Floyd Mayweather and Manny Pacquiao, a joint PPV venture between HBO and Showtime which remains the highest-grossing event in boxing history.
Jake Donovan is a senior writer for BoxingScene.com. Twitter: @JakeNDaBox