ESPN and boxing promotional company Top Rank have been putting up some pretty good numbers together. The two entered into an exclusive broadcast agreement last year to broadcast and stream fights across ESPN, ESPN Deportes, the ESPN app, and eventually ESPN+. Things turned out pretty well as Top Rank fights in primetime averaged 1,575,000 viewers on ESPN and 95,000 on ESPN Deportes while the twelve most-viewed fights on cable in 2017 were Top Rank fights on ESPN. In fact, the Manny Pacquaio – Jeff Horn fight that year pulled in an average of 3,925,000 viewers and peaked around 4.4 million viewers, making it the highest-rated boxing telecast on cable since 2006.
All of which is to say that it’s not surprising to see the two sides announcing Thursday that they are partnering on “the most comprehensive, exclusive rights agreement in the history of boxing.” The seven-year deal runs through 2025 and includes 54 boxing events every year, as well as exclusive programming, classic fights, and accompanying studio content. All of this content will live across the same channels and services and also means ESPN will be showcasing more Top Rank content, including live events, original programming, and library video.
The specific breakdown of broadcasts calls for 18 events on ESPN, 12 exclusive, prime-time events on ESPN+, 24 premium international events on ESPN+, and undercard coverage of all 54 events on ESPN+.
As for what that programming entails, plans call for The Boxing Beat with Dan Rafael every Tuesday, In This Corner twice every month, Camp Life related to specific fights, re-airings of Top Rank on ESPN and Top Rank on ESPN PPV fights, notable weigh-ins, post-fight interviews, and press conferences, and hundreds of fights from the ESPN Big Fights Library and the Top Rank archive.
“ESPN is thrilled with this new long-term agreement with Top Rank, which represents the most innovative and comprehensive relationship in the world of boxing today,” said Jimmy Pitaro, ESPN President and Co-Chairman, Disney Media Networks. “By creating and distributing significantly more Top Rank events and boxing content, ESPN and Top Rank will jointly cultivate upcoming fighters and fights, creating the stars of tomorrow while providing fans with the sport’s best content in a more personalized manner.”
ESPN+, the company’s multi-sport, direct-to-consumer subscription streaming service that launched in April, is a big part of the deal and the direction moving forward for ESPN. They’re going to want exclusive content to be able to make subscriptions valuable and the kind of content Top Rank brings with it makes a lot of sense to meet that need.