02/18/20: Top Rank founder Bob Arum breaks down this week’s PPV and state of boxing

 

 

Tuesday February 18, 2020

Industry eyes this week will be on FOX Sports and ESPN as they buddy up to present Wilder vs. Fury II on Saturday, boosted by a lineup of fight week programming on both channels ahead of the PPV. The PPV action, presented by FOX Sports PPV and ESPN+ PPV live from the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas, begins at 9p with prelims slated for 7:30p on FS1, ESPNEWS and in Spanish on FOX Deportes and ESPN3. Ahead of the heavyweight battle, Cynopsis Sports asked legendary promoter Bob Arum, founder and CEO of Top Rank, about the upcoming PPV, the state of boxing and making this contest happen.

Arum on the matchup: This fight matches two undefeated champions, Wilder who holds the WBC belt, and Fury, who is the lineal champion because he defeated unified champion Wladimir Klitschko in 2015 and never lost in the ring. These are two heavyweights in their prime. This reminds me of the first Ali-Frazier fight in 1971. Frazier was the interim champion and Ali, who had been prevented from fighting for over three years, was the lineal champion because he had never lost the title in the ring. This fight is similar to that. It’s much more intriguing than even the Lennox Lewis-Mike Tyson fight in 2002, as both of them had lost multiple times before. Here, you have two undefeated guys, and the only blemish on their records is a draw that they had with each other.

On the health of the boxing industry: I think boxing is in a very, very strong position because we have entities now involved, unlike years ago, that have big bucks and big megaphones. Not only ESPN and ESPN+, but FOX and FOX’s digital platform. We also have DAZN with its digital platform. There’s never been this much boxing offered to the public.

On bringing together ESPN and FOX Sports: This partnership between ESPN and FOX has been so collegial. I think these two entities have shown us in boxing how you work together for a great result. But you have to remember ESPN and FOX work together on other sports, whether it’s college football or baseball. They share the games on a weekly basis, so there is a history of working together. Unfortunately, in boxing, for years we were limited to HBO and Showtime, and they weren’t adult entities. All they wanted to do was fight with each other and therefore it wasn’t easy to do events with both of them involved.

On future partnerships: I believe there will be many more FOX/ESPN events. I have nothing but respect for the FOX people. They’ve been great on this promotion, and I look forward to working with them in the future. The combination of the two companies has been awesome.

On the biggest challenge for the boxing industry: We need to learn from this fight what it means to work together and to put aside petty differences. If we can do that, the sport will thrive and will go on to levels that it should achieve.

PROGRAMMING

Tweaks to the NBA All-Star Game paid dividends for Turner Sports, which drew an average of 7.3 million viewers across th TNT/TBS simulcast, up 8% over last year’s numbers. Pre-game coverage on TNT (8-8:30p), with tributes to Kobe Bryant, averaged 6.3 million viewers for an increase of 19% over last year. Overall, TNT garnered a 15% viewership increase for its combined All-Star coverage – the NBA All-Star Game, All-Star Saturday Night and Friday’s Rising Stars game. All-Star Saturday Night netted TNT’s most-watched coverage of the event since 2017, while the Rising Stars competition was the network’s best since 2015. Additionally, Bleacher Report recorded more than an 80% rise in social engagements across all platforms.

ESPN’s coverage of the NBA All-Star Celebrity Game Presented by Ruffles averaged 1.45 million viewers, up 9% from last year and registered a 0.9 household rating, up 11%.

Meanwhile, amid the All-Star festivities, NBA Commissioner Adam Silver announced that the Kia NBA All-Star Game MVP Award would be permanently named for the late Kobe Bryant. “Kobe Bryant is synonymous with NBA All-Star and embodies the spirit of this global celebration of our game,” said Silver. “He always relished the opportunity to compete with the best of the best and perform at the highest level for millions of fans around the world.”

May will see – during TNT’s coverage of the 2020 NBA Western Conference Finals – Turner Sports debut The Inside Story, a four-part docuseries celebrating the 30th anniversary of the Inside the NBA show. The docuseries compiled of more than 2,000 hours of footage and 100 interviews featuring NBA legends current players, celebrities, sports media, and the NBA on TNT cast and crew – will explore the impact Inside the NBA has had on culture, the league and the landscape of sports television over the past three decades.

ESPN unveiled early MLB game selections for its Monday Night Baseball presented by USAA, Wednesday Night Baseball presented by Hankook Tire and Holiday Baseball platforms. The Apr. 6 edition of Monday Night Baseball pit the Rays/Red Sox at 7p on ESPN. Other new matchups on the docket include Rays/Astros on April 20 at 7p, Brewers/Cubs on May 11, and Braves/Cardinals on May 18. The Astros will be on Wednesday Night Baseball on Apr. 7 as they host the Mets while Brewers/Yankees will take the stage on May 20, while Brewers/Rockies runs July 9. ESPN’s Holiday Baseball coverage begins May 25 with a Memorial Day doubleheader featuring the Braves/Cardinals face off at 1:10p followed by Dodgers/Rockies at 4p.

NBC Sports lined up an all-female crew to broadcast and produce game coverage of the St. Louis Blues/Chicago Blackhawks matchup on March 8 on NBCSN, coinciding with International Women’s Day and marking the first NHL game broadcast and produced solely by women in the U.S. Kate Scott (play-by-play) will call the action alongside Kendall Coyne-Schofield (‘Inside-the-Glass’ analyst) and AJ Mleczko (analyst). Kathryn Tappen will anchor studio coverage with Jen Botterill. Game production will be led by producer Rene Hatlelid and director Lisa Seltzer. In addition to the game elements, NBC Sports’ female-empowerment brand On Her Turf will surround coverage with content featuring women in hockey in various ways including the Hockey is for Her digital video franchise and behind-the-scenes content.

In other hockey news, the NHL’s Carolina Hurricanes will host the 2021 Navy Federal Credit Union NHL Stadium Series game at Carter-Finley Stadium. The game will be played on February 20, 2021, with the opponent to be determined at a later date.

SHOWTIME unveiled a new basketball documentary project based on the “life, career and legacy of NBA Champion and 15-time All-Star Kevin Garnett.” The feature-length film is produced by SHOWTIME Sports in association with Content Cartel, Blowback Productions and will premiere on the channel later this year following Garnett’s likely induction into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame. In addition to the long-form documentary, the network will develop a range of digital content with Garnett distributed under the new SHOWTIME Basketball online platform throughout the year.

German sports broadcaster Sport1 tied up NASCAR in a three-year deal. According to multiple reports, the agreement runs through 2022 where Sport1 will carry all live races on its Sport1+ and will select some races for free-to-air coverage. Subsequently, Sport1 also sublicensed rights to 12 live races to Motorvision TV.

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SPONSORSHIP & PROMOTION

World TeamTennis locked sponsorship agreements for its inaugural All-Star Weekend on Feb. 29-March 1. Deals include a presenting sponsorship from Barefoot Hard Seltzer, the official hard seltzer of WTT. Additional sponsors include official jewelry partner John Hardy, along with partnership agreements with Tennis Clash, Har-Tru Sports Coatings and PIVOT tennis. “It is a testament to the continued growth of World TeamTennis and the high-level of players committed to compete in our inaugural All-Star match on CBS, that we’ve been able to accrue such a terrific lineup on sponsors, including presenting sponsor Barefoot Hard Seltzer, for this sold-out event,” said WTT CEO & President Carlos Silva.

BMW i extended its partnership as official vehicle partner of the ABB FIA Formula E Championship, continuing to supply Formula E with an extensive fleet of course cars at every race. “BMW i has played a pivotal role in the success of Formula E since the start of the championship. Not only as a founding partner, but also as a strong competitor and manufacturer currently leading the team standings,” said Jamie Reigle, Chief Executive Officer of Formula E.

US Club Soccer inked a deal with Verizon to become the “Official Innovation and 5G Partner” of the league. “US Club Soccer is the ideal partner for us as we enter into youth soccer and continue to grow our engagement in the sport,” said John Nitti, Chief Media Officer, Verizon. “As the official innovation and 5G partner we’re excited to not only support the organization, but also identify the way Verizon’s technology can support the sport and it’s young players.”

PepsiCo Beverages North America announced its official partnership with Orlando City SC, Orlando Pride and Exploria Stadium as the official non-alcoholic pouring partner. The five-year deal makes PepsiCo Beverages North America the exclusive carbonated soft drink, water (flat, sparkling, carbonated, premium, flavored/non-flavored), energy drink, muscle milk, juice and tea of Orlando City SC, Orlando Pride and Exploria Stadium, and includes rights to marks and logos for marketing, activation and community engagement.

DIGITAL, DATA & TECH

The Cubs’ new Marquee Sports Network locked in a deal with Hulu to carry the RSN on its Hulu+ Live TV service to subscribers in the Midwest. “For the folks who are more conditioned to streaming their content, this gives them a way to watch the Cubs,” said Mike McCarthy, Marquee’s general manager. “That being said, our traditional cable and satellite subscribers are very important to us too.”

Yahoo Sports announced that Shawn Johnson East, who won four medals at the 2008 Olympic Games in Beijing, will join Yahoo Sports as an analyst for this summer’s 2020 Olympic Games in Tokyo. Johnson East, who originally worked with Yahoo Sports during the Olympics in Rio in 2016, will provide analysis on gymnastics as well as on broader Olympic storylines and social media features and be joined by Dan Wetzel, Hannah Keyser, Liz Loza, Chris Haynes and Pete Thamel for coverage of the Olympic Games in Tokyo.

ESPORTS

Ubisoft is tweaking its Rainbow Six Siege esports format to now include a regionalized series that will kick in in mid-June with programs representing Asia-Pacific, Europe, Latin America, and North America. The new plans call for each year to comprise one season that will now be divided into quarters. The first three quarters will serve as stages that will each feature its own Major where the top four teams from each region will compete. The final stage will see each region run its own finals and relegations, with the top teams moving on to the Six Invitational.

The Washington Justice named PenFed Credit Union, the nation’s second largest federal credit union, as a Founding Partner of its 2020 season and the Presenting Partner of their Inaugural Homestand Weekend on Feb. 22 and 23. As part of the activation, PenFed credit and debit cardholders and PenFed Power Cash Rewards Visa Signature®applicants will receive a special PenFed VIP experience, including VIP entrance and meet and greet lines, access to the PenFed VIP lounge, special promotional merchandise and post season player meetups.

The Canadian Premier League and Electronic Arts are forming the first-ever eCanadian Premier League tournament that will see all eight CPL clubs are represented in the tournament, giving players the chance to live their dream of winning a title for their favourite club. The eCPL Final will be played in Toronto on May 9 and broadcast live on OneSoccer and Twitch. The tournament kicks off on Feb. 29 and will be available on PlayStation 4. Players will compete across eight online club qualification weekends and eight live city qualifiers. The 16 Esports players from across the nation that secure a qualification birth will travel to Toronto to compete in the eCPL Final presented by OneSoccer.

DreamHack announced categories and talent for The Dreamies Award show, taking place this weekend at Dreamhack Anaheim on Feb. 23. The ceremony will be hosted by Naomi Kyle and CaptainSparklez with awards that include “Scared Witless,” “Rage Quit,” “Worth the Wait,” and “Sleeper Hit.”

INDUSTRY & ROSTER MOVES

NASCAR locked in an extension of its Charter agreement with Series team owners, locking in a four-year deal that runs through the 2024 season. “The Charter agreement is delivering stability and long-term value to existing team owners while providing a clear path for ownership in the NASCAR Cup Series,” said NASCAR President Steve Phelps. “We are pleased to have reached an agreement with the team owners that extends the length of the Charter system until 2024. A healthy ownership structure ensures strong, competitive racing for our fans, which is a goal the industry collectively shares.”

The Basketball Africa League unveiled the 12 club teams from 12 African countries that will compete in the league’s inaugural season, which will tip off March 13 at the Dakar Arena in Dakar, Senegal. Teams are set to include GSP from Algeria, Petro d Luanda from Angola, FAP from Cameroon, Zamalek from Egypt, GNBC from Madagascar, AS Police from Mali, AS Sale from Morocco, Ferroviario de Maputo from Mozambique, Rivers Hoops BC form Nigeria, Patriots BC from Rwanda, AS Douanes from Senegal and US Monastir from Tunisia.

The Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame announced at NBA All-Star Weekend, that Michael Wilbon and Mike Breen will be honored as the 2020 Curt Gowdy Media Award recipients. The award is presented annually to members of the print and electronic media whose efforts have made a significant contribution to the game of basketball.

The American Hockey League’s Board of Governors unanimously elected Scott Howson as President and Chief Executive Officer of the league effective July 1. Howson will become the tenth President since the league’s formation in 1936 and will succeed the retiring David Andrews, who will continue as Chairman of the Board of Governors.

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