Thanks to the Floyd Mayweather vs. Conor McGregor fight, boxing received a surge of interest during the past few weeks. Whether or not that’s a short-term spike for the sport depends on boxing’s ability to develop new stars and engaging fights. But a new partnership between Top Rank boxing and ESPN might help increase exposure for the sport and make it more accessible to fans.
On Friday, ESPN and Top Rank announced an exclusive agreement that will put Top Rank fights on ESPN and ESPN Deportes, in addition to making them available for streaming on the ESPN app. Furthermore, Top Rank fights will be part of the ESPN over-the-top subscription service that is being developed after Disney purchased a majority stake in BAMTech. That direct-to-consumer product is expected to debut in early 2018. ESPN will also produce select pay-per-view events as part of the agreement.
The next Top Rank on ESPN event is scheduled for Sept. 22 from Tuscon, Arizona. The card will feature two WBO world title fights with Oscar Valdez defending his featherweight championship and Gilberto Ramirez defending his Super Middleweight belt.
The agreement furthers ESPN’s effort to televise more boxing and be a greater presence in the sport, most recently indicated by the network broadcasting the fight between Manny Pacquiao and Jeff Horn, which resulted in a controversial outcome. This puts ESPN in better position to compete with HBO and Showtime for boxing viewers. The network presumably has quite an uphill climb against those established rivals, but should be more accessible for fans who currently have to subscribe to premium networks to see the biggest fights.
“ESPN is excited to announce this new relationship with Top Rank, the most comprehensive and innovative media agreement in the history of the sport,” said Burke Magnus, ESPN executive vice president of programming & scheduling. “We believe in a new vision for boxing that will super-serve existing boxing fans and create legions of new fans through the highest quality boxing content across multiple ESPN platforms – 365 days a year. Together, ESPN and Top Rank will build the superstars of tomorrow through unrivaled exposure, original content and cutting edge technology.”
During the first year of the ESPN-Top Rank agreement, the network will televise 18 main events on its assorted platforms, including broadcast TV, the ESPN app, the over-the-top service, pay-per-view events and archived fights. ESPN’s Top Rank programming will also be available in Canada on TSN (English-language broadcast) and RDS (French).
The exclusive agreement with Top Rank is part of ESPN’s effort to offer more content for streaming on the ESPN app and, eventually, its over-the-top standalone service in an effort to stanch the loss of cable and satellite subscribers. The network also announced that a new 30 for 30 documentary about boxer Tommy Morrison will debut on streaming and on-demand platforms on Sept. 13.