Editor Note: Early Entrants is a bi-weekly series of sports business “rumblings” before the news breaks.
Showtime Boxing On The Ropes
HBO’s decision to exit the boxing business left Showtime as the sole premium cable channel invested in the sport, but whispers that they too are on bought time are getting louder and as one industry insider told us “at some point somebody above Stephen Espinoza is going to pull the plug because it doesn’t make sense to be spending $30 million, $40 million, $50 million/year on a sport and sit third on the totem pole (behind ESPN & DAZN). I don’t believe a lot of subscribers would turn off Showtime if they stopped doing boxing.”
The ratings from last night’s (5.18) Wilder-Breazeale fight (not yet released at time of print) could go a long way towards making that decision for the network. As reported in Friday’s (5.17) newsletter, Showtime is paying a record licensing fee to broadcast the bout. The network needs to draw 1 million viewers for the show to be considered a success; “if it does just 700,000 or 800,000 homes, it’s going to be embarrassing from a business standpoint.”
Disney Taking Stake in DraftKings
Fox Sports’ decision to align with The Stars Group and form a JV (entitled Fox Bet) to facilitate “real money sports wagering” would seem to put Murdoch & Co. in direct competition with DraftKings – a company they invested in back in July ’15. The potential conflict of interest is unlikely to still be an issue though by the time Fox Bet rolls out their apps late in Q3. One well-connected insider tells us that Fox Sports’ stake in the DFS turned sports betting outfit “is going to or went to Disney.”
Saudi Kingdom Planning to Launch State-Owned, Multi-Territory Sports Network
With U.S. and U.K. officials intensifying their pressure on the Saudi Kingdom to protect intellectual property rights holders and to shut down the pirate broadcaster ‘BeoutQ’ (owned by the Saudi satellite provider Arabsat), rumors are circulating that the Saudi government has plans to launch their own multi-territory sports network. A state-owned channel would give the Saudi government the motivation to take aim at BeoutQ – which would appease the greater international community – while providing a viable alternative for sports properties (like F1, which was dropped in MENA in protest of BeoutQ) in a middle-eastern market that’s been monopolized by beIN.
Premier Boxing Champions For Sale
As noted on Friday (5.18), the prevailing thought amongst boxing insiders is that it was Al Haymon who invested at least $10M into last night’s Wilder-Breazeale fight to keep Deontay on his side of the street. The belief is that Premier Boxing Champions is for sale (or that Haymon is raising capital) and that he needs the heavyweight champion to pull down the highest multiple. There’s been speculation that Endeavor would have interest in PBC, but that seems unlikely. As one boxing insider told us “Haymon’s fighters may not fight often, but he’s paid them through the roof; Endeavor is not going to buy something with a model diametrically opposed to their MMA business.” FYI:Nearly half (41%) of the UFC’s +/- 500 fighters earn less than $45,000/year.
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