With the Sunday night stunning announcement U.S. sports TV news that FOX Sports has opted out of its lucrative, prestigious deal to cover the United States Golf Open, the question becomes: is this part of a larger plan by the TV giant to dump other programming including, potentially, their boxing deal with Premier Boxing Champions?
First, came the Sunday night TV sports bombshell details that Fox has elected to end the remaining seven years of its 12 year agreement with the United States Golf Association and cease immediately, televising their events.
That move will reportedly save the network $700 million over the next 7 years, but it’s also an embarrassment for FOX Sports, as they very brashly ripped the rights away NBC Sports / the Golf Channel five years ago.
NBC, which had televised the United States Open and other USGA Championships for over 20 years previously, very quickly moved in to secure a new deal with for the U.S. Championships. And, they did it apparently at a 50% discount ($350 million) for the next 7 years.
Now, this is where it gets more interesting (and potentially scary), as to what FOX will do (or not) with their current agreement with Al Haymon’s, Premier Boxing Champions?
PBC and FOX previously announced a four-year agreement in September 2018 for the network and its FS1 cable channel to be the exclusive home of PBC’s, non-premium cable fights. That deal was hailed as a success for Haymon, as he had spent the previous three years spending 10’s of millions of dollars buying time on various over the air and cable networks for their fight cards.
The FOX/PBC deal is reportedly for $60 million annually and partially, for the production cost of up to 22 fight cards per year on the two FOX networks.
The deal also made FOX the sole pay-per-view outlet for PBC, and the network rolled out a series of large main event fights last year on PPV. These included: the Errol Spence-Mikey Garcia World Welterweight showdown in March of 2019, continued with Manny Pacquiao’s defeat of Keith Thurman later in July and then, former WBC Heavyweight champ, Deontay Wilder’s knockout win over Luis Ortiz in November.
Now, with the Covid-19 global pandemic having shut down all of sports in mid-March, PBC has yet to resume any live boxing programming for FOX for the last full three full months.
As we wrote previously, PBC is intending to return with a July 31st fight card that would reportedly originate from the Fox Television Studios in Los Angeles without fans.
However, Fox announced last week that they were ceasing production of the shoulder program “Inside PBC Boxing,” which had been used over the last year, as a preview / review for the flight cards every month on Fox and FS1.
FOX also announced at the same time that they were doing away with production of World Wrestling Entertainment’s “WWE Backstage” shoulder programming show and that meant numerous FOX employees were being laid off.
Fox and Vince McMahon’s WWE entered into a five-year, billion-dollar agreement that began in the fall of 2019. However, their ratings have plummeted since the Pandemic, as they’ve been forced to do shows at their Performance Center in Orlando without fans present.
That resulted in losing more than 25% of the WWE’s TV audience in May and has many wondering whether or not FOX might be looking to already pull the plug on their deal with wrestling, as well?
While there is nothing definitive about what FOX might do with Premier Boxing Champions, if they were to end the relationship, Haymon and PBC did have agreements (buying airtime) previously on CBS, ESPN, FOX and NBC from 2015 – 17.
Certainly, CBS for example, which broadcasted boxing regularly in the 1980s and 90s, would possibly entertain a deal with PBC.
But, it is very unlikely the PBC could get a significant rights fee from anyone in the short-term with the economy still reeling during the Coronavirus pandemic in the summer of 2020.
However, PBC may be forced to look, if Sunday night’s golf announcement is part of a larger plan that the FOX is acting on trying to getting rid of lower-level, less valuable sports properties and programs.
The network has massive long-standing agreements in place with the hugely popular NFL, and Major League Baseball with exclusive rights to the World Series, as well as significant deals with NASCAR, which resumed live races and programming for the network in May.
And, they have college football coverage in the fall and exclusive United States coverage of the FIFA men’s and women’s World Cup, every four years.
Now, we wait to see what the broadcasting giant will continue to do or not, with boxing.