Premier Boxing Champions held their second fight card on NBC over the weekend. The organization has led a boxing renaissance on the national stage, bringing the sport to network television for the first time in years. The PBC has come to an agreement with almost every major network that televises sports in this country including ESPN, NBC, and CBS.
Thousands of words have been written over the years on current state of boxing on the American sporting landscape and whether or not it could ever potentially regain some of the popularity from its glory days. The fall of boxing, and the multitude of reasons for its precipitous decline, have been well documented. Bringing good fights to fans on free over-the-air television is at least a decent idea to start moving in the right direction again.
So just how has PBC on NBC performed in network primetime? This past weekend’s fight card drew 2.69 million viewers in the preliminary ratings. (Update: that increased to 2.88 million in the final numbers.) That’s down slightly from the debut of the series on March 7th that reached 3.37 million.
In trying to add some further context to those ratings, we’ve enlisted our ratings wizard Douglas Pucci to pour through the numbers and see how that compares to another other combat sport in primetime – the UFC. Granted its very early, and we’re only comparing two data points to fourteen, but it at least gives us an early picture of how well boxing is performing in its return to network television.
PBC on NBC (2 cards): 3.13 million viewers
UFC on Fox (14 cards): 3.34 million viewers
Interestingly enough, the PBC on NBC is right on par with the UFC on Fox, especially when it comes to more recent times. The peak audience for UFC on Fox is still their debut all the way back in 2011 at 5.7 million viewers. And if one only looks at the audiences from the start of 2014, PBC on NBC actually beats UFC on Fox, as the latter has averaged 2.8 million viewers in those five fight cards. (In fact, Elite XC and Strikeforce on CBS cards from 2008 beat both PBC and UFC in the averages – four fight cards from 2008-2009 averaged 4.00 million viewers. Anyone remember Kimbo Slice?)
It’s still very early for the life of the PBC and with so many more television contracts kicking in, it’ll be interesting to see just how mainstream those three letters can become. But these numbers show that the franchise is at least off to a hopeful start and is on a level playing field with the UFC in network primetime. That should surely settle the boxing vs MMA debate and show those parties back to their neutral corners, right? Perhaps there is room for both sports to find success and sustainability after all.