Hearn announces a decision on a new TV deal with happen within 'Two Weeks'
All good things come to an end. We’ve all heard that saying right?
This could very well be the case for the relationship between Matchroom Boxing and Sky Sports as Matchroom Head Honcho, Eddie Hearn has announced that a decision on the promotions new broadcasting deal will be made within ‘Two weeks’. Matchroom and Sky have been in an exclusive partnership since 2012. The match made in heaven has seen the broadcasting giants deep pockets, and the rise of stars like Unified Heavyweight Champion of the World, Anthony Joshua. Take boxing from arenas in the UK to selling out 70,000 tickets at the Principality Stadium in Cardiff, more than once. And, who can forget the 90,000 sell-out crowd that saw Anthony Joshua climb off the canvas to halt Wladimir Klitschko back in 2017.
In this article, we’ll explore the options available to Matchroom. And, I’ll take a stab in the dark as to the likelihood of where they might end up.
Staying with Sky…
Matchroom and Sky’s relationship goes way back to the 1990’s when Eddie’s father Barry put on shows with Chris Eubank as the headliner. As I mentioned a moment ago. The Eddie Hearn revolution began in 2012 when Frank Warren pulled out of putting shows on Sky. Paving the way for the young upstart Hearn to seek his first major deal. Gaining exclusive rights to Sky and leaving promoters like Frank (Now Kelly) Maloney and Ricky Hatton looking for alternative deals. Between the two of them, they have made an awful lot of money together. However, a renewal is not as straightforward as one might think. Hearn initially persuaded the then Sky Sports MD, Barney Francis to go into sole partnership with Matchroom. Francis is a huge boxing fan, but his days in the top job are long gone. More importantly, although boxing is the only sport that makes Sky a profit. The COVID-19 pandemic has seen a huge hit on advertising revenue at all broadcasters. So sporting rights fees will most certainly be hit when new deals are agreed.
That being said, in my honest opinion. Sticking with Sky will certainly provide Hearn with the most security. The biggest moving part to consider is the future of Anthony Joshua. Joshua is a free agent come the summer. Much will depend on the ability of Matchroom to tie AJ down to a new deal after all, and with no offense meant to any of the other talent within the stable. AJ is the cash cow of the stable. And, with a possible two-fight deal with WBC champ, Tyson Fury a realistic possibility for this year. Sky will no doubt want a piece of the pie which, in all likelihood, will smash pay-per-view records in this country. But perhaps, just perhaps, we could see AJ take the Floyd Mayweather model and grace Sky Sports screens sans Eddie Hearn.
Of course, leaving Sky would open the door for another promoter to get into bed with Sky. However, with Frank Warren tied up with BT and no other real competition in this country less the possibility of Sauerland and Wasserman jumping into the spot. Hearn will likely not be too troubled.
Boxing back on ITV …
Yes that’s right, ITV have thrown their hat into the ring. If you are old enough to remember The Big Fight Live, boxing and ITV were a mainstay in the 90’s. And, ITV does have the option to carry the pay-per-view model. The terrestrial broadcaster already has a deal in place with Matchroom, albeit with Eddie’s father Barry to show PBC darts and snooker on the channel. Therefore, the relationship is already there.
My biggest concern is the broadcaster’s reaction to boxing in the past. As I said a moment ago, boxing USED to be a big part of ITV’s Saturday night programming. However, in the aftermath of Nigel Benn’s barbaric war with Gerald McLellan, which saw the American suffer lifelong, debilitating injuries. ITV got cold feet and pulled the plug on boxing. For a couple of years at least. A two-year absence ceased when Naseem Hamed appeared on the channel. But, another brutal knockout saw them cease to show the sport once again.
Whilst there has been sporadic fighting on the channel since then. And, the pay-per-view side of ITV housed the World Boxing Super Series at times. A part of me thinks we could always be just a bad knockout away from them pulling the plug and Matchroom being forced to look for a new deal.
The writing is already on the wall isn’t it? DAZN finally made their move to the UK in December of last year, and for the low price of just £1.99. We of course already know that Hearn has a deal in place to show 16 shows a year, with the rumour being they’ve handed him $1bn war chest to do just that. Although, given Hearn’s efforts thus far. One might think that, that figure is somewhat grossly inflated. The deal sees Hearn covering the United States, Mexico, Italy and Spain.
One thing to remember is that the grass isn’t greener on the other side, it is just a different shade. And, DAZN has already seen it’s fair share of problems. It’s already lost its biggest star after Saul ‘Canelo’ Alvarez went through litigation to get out of the contract which would have made him the highest paid boxer in the sport. Why did he leave? The Mexican superstar claimed that they could not deliver on the terms of his mammoth deal. Perhaps the pockets are not as deep as one might have thought. This might have rang one, or two alarm bells in the head of Mr Hearn.
Who knows? I will say this. Hearn is probably the smartest businessman in the sport. I truly mean that. He is shrewd enough not to shoot himself in the foot. There Is news of a fourth party looking to get to the table. However, they remain anonymous. My sense is that Hearn takes the security and signs an new, shorter, deal with Sky. Whilst carrying on his offshore exploits with DAZN.
As soon as we know anything, so will you.