Saturday marks the return of boxing to primetime network television as the PBC on NBC hits the ring at 8:30p as the first of 20 live boxing events set to run on company platforms in 2015 and led by a card that includes Keith Thurman/Robert Guerrero and Adrien Broner/John Molina Jr. Created for TV by Haymon Boxing, the PBC’s run this year will include not only NBC’s family of channels, but new shows on CBS, Spike TV and Bounce TV as well. As the boxing company hits television audiences, NBC has given the sport its “big event treatment,” with promotion across its platforms, reeling in the likes of Al Michaels, Marv Albert and Sugar Ray Leonard as talent, and tapping the services of famed composer Hans Zimmer for the show.
Cynopsis Sports spoke with President of Programming at NBC Sports and NBCSN Jon Miller about the new franchise…
Miller on the interest in boxing: The first conversations took place in the fall of 2013, when we had a meeting with both Ryan Caldwell and Al Haymon about finding a way to make boxing big again, taking it from where it has been and turning it into a major property. We were obviously interested. The last time we had a fight in primetime in NBC was in1985 and I was actually in NBC Sports Sales at that time, working for Jim Burnette. I actually sold that Larry Holmes/Carl Williams fight. I remember how big it could be and I grew up following those great fighters of the 70s and 80s. We knew in the current format, where promoters had a single agenda that didn’t include growing the sport, it couldn’t work with NBC. So Al came in with a very unique concept that was pretty breathtaking and ambitious. He had already put together a solid team and we were very intrigued.
On talent: Al made it clear that he was going to deliver top-level talent to us and our promise to him was that we would respond in kind with top-level talent as well. Clearly Al Michaels is the premier live event host in the business. Marv Albert called boxing for NBC back in the glory days of the sport and is clearly one of the greatest announcers of our generation. Sugar Ray Leonard is an iconic name in the sport who also does a great job communicating what was going on. That is a credit to Sam Flood and the production team because they know how to make big event bigger. Everybody in the sports group was interested in this project, and everybody from the sports group has touched this project. That’s what makes it even more fun.
On the growth of boxing and other PBC shows: While we keep our expectations to ourselves, we think that the property can do very well. We think that Saturday nights are nights where if you put on quality programming, people will come find it. These are high-end fights and there are some spectacular matchups. The sport needs fights who become recognizable. These matchups were all part of the deal up front. We knew that Al’s plan was and that is one of the reasons there was a central sponsorship organization that handling sponsorship for Premier Boxing Champions across all the different platforms. It would have been very difficult to go out there and have NBC selling a package, CBS selling a package, Spike selling a package and so forth. So there is one group that integrates sponsorship across all the different platforms which is brilliant.