By George Gigney
IT’S OFFICIAL: Amazon Prime is in the boxing business. The streaming giant announced a new “multiyear” deal with Premier Boxing Champions (PBC) that will see Amazon broadcast “a series of PBC Championship Boxing events” each year, as well as PBC pay-per-view events being available on the service, too.
The announcement was made via a very short press release that was thin on details. What we do know is that the deal gives Amazon exclusive rights to some – not, apparently, all – of PBC’s events over the next few years in the US and other locations. These shows will be included in the standard Amazon Prime subscription. The PPV events will be available for anyone to purchase on Amazon Prime, even if they aren’t a subscriber.
There was no word on when the agreement will kick off in earnest with its first event, though there are reports that the first PPV card under this new deal will take place in March. It’s also believed that PBC will hold 12-14 cards on Amazon Prime each year.
This new deal, of course, comes as a result of Showtime – with whom PBC are aligned until the end of this year – bowing out of boxing and sports broadcasting altogether. It’s not a huge surprise that this announcement came with almost no details, as it’s likely they were just publicly confirming the deal as soon as possible. This lets the industry know that PBC fighters, including the likes of Canelo Alvarez and Gervonta Davis, will not be without a broadcast home once the current Showtime deal expires.
In the US there are roughly 150 million Amazon Prime subscribers. That is an enormous audience that will now have access to non-PPV PBC shows at no extra cost. So this could be a huge deal for PBC. That will partly depend on how Amazon markets boxing within its platform – there is a lot of content already on there and being added to it all the time.
But this is undoubtedly a win. Amazon is one of the most powerful companies in the world and we have seen how much investment it is willing to commit to its Prime entertainment platform. Plus, we’ve recently seen a bit of a reassessment in terms of Amazon’s priorities when it comes to sport. For a while now, Amazon has bid to air a select amount of Premier League matches throughout the season. Interestingly, in the latest round of bids, Amazon chose not to purchase anything, leaving Sky Sports and TNT Sports to share the spoils.
That could be for a multitude of reasons, including the fact that Premier League TV rights are eye-wateringly expensive. But it could also mean that Amazon is looking to spend that money on other sports, such as boxing. We don’t know how long this new deal with PBC is agreed for – “multiyear” could literally mean just two years, it could be as many as five. PBC, as a company, has worked with numerous broadcasters in the past – FOX, CBS, ESPN and Showtime – and those relationships were patchy. None of them lasted for a particularly long time and PBC could not consistently provide stand out events with big name fighters throughout each year.
As a streaming service, will Amazon Prime be willing to stick through quieter patches in the PBC schedule? We shall see.
In terms of production, that will apparently be largely down to PBC. There’s plenty of on-air and behind-the-scenes talent that could be carried over from Showtime and maybe (please) this could be the moment a major broadcaster scoops up Jim Lampley into a broadcast contract. What was encouraging is that Amazon said there will still be plenty of shoulder programming for PBC events, stuff like Showtime’s All Access series. That’s the sort of content that builds narratives around certain fighters and fights, attracting more fans in the process.
The downside is that this will likely silo PBC fighters. Unless this deal allows for more freedom than we think, it’s unlikely that PBC and Amazon will be teaming up with other streaming services in the US like DAZN and ESPN+. In truth, that doesn’t change the landscape of boxing in North America all that much. There wasn’t a huge amount of synergy between the different broadcasters before this deal and there won’t be much during or after it.
A development that got somewhat lost in the news cycle this week came from Amanda Serrano, who vacated her WBC ‘world’ featherweight title after the organisation refused to sanction 12 three-minute round contests for women.
“The WBC has refused to evolve the sport for equality, so I am relinquishing their title,” she wrote on social media.
This is exactly how fighters should be reclaiming their power within the sport. Serrano is using her status as one of the biggest female fighters on the planet to strive for equality in boxing. If more fighters follow her example – not just on this particular issue, either – then the balance of power can shift away from these sanctioning bodies and more favourably toward fighters themselves who, after all, are the ones putting their health on the line.
Terence Crawford appears to be thinking along the same lines. Speaking to fighthype.com, he said: “There’s a change that needs to be made in the sport of boxing, and I think that change is coming soon.”
He referred to the fact that there needs to be a wider attitude shift amongst fighters for this change to happen, and alluded to the apparent redundancy of promoters and managers within boxing. There’s almost no chance of that big of a systemic change happening, but it is encouraging that prominent fighters like Crawford and Serrano are advocating for themselves more and more.
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