By Hans Olson
“The time of non-televised undercards is going to be over on Showtime,” said Golden Boy Promotions CEO Richard Shaefer at yesterday’s press conference for “Vicious” Victor Ortiz vs. Andre Berto II. “There’s going to be no more non-televised undercards because for the big fights, like this one here, undercards will be televised. They will be televised, they will be part of the broadcast which will be shown on one of the Showtime platforms.”
The newest addition to Showtime, Stephen Espinoza (who takes over duties vacated by Ken Hershman), elaborated. “When they are deserving, we’ll be airing what used to be non-televised undercards on Showtime Extreme before the telecast begins on Showtime,” said Espinoza. “This will be an opportunistic play for our network based on multiple factors. Showtime Extreme has blossomed into one of the strongest cable television and sports programming outlets. Showtime Extreme is where we replay all our boxing and MMA events, and the rest of our award-winning sports programming such as Inside the NFL, Inside NASCAR, and The Franchise.”
That Showtime has taken the initiative to air the usually “off-TV” portions of the undercard is a strong sign of their intention to compete with a growing trend in combat sports, a trend that was spearheaded in large part by the UFC. The UFC, which has long shown the “prelim bouts” to their pay-per-view’s on the SpikeTV network, has not only seen high ratings and viewer interest, but has also used this tactic to expose younger fighters who aren’t on the main card, and who wouldn’t have be seen otherwise. Recently, the UFC has utilized their Facebook page to stream undercard bouts as well.
That the world of boxing may be catching on to some of the UFC’s forward thinking is not only a good sign, but it may become the norm in years to come. Promoters Top Rank and Golden Boy have both used their websites to stream cards, as has sanctioning body the WBC. Could the internet eventually become just as important as the premium cable networks when it comes to how people view combat sports? The WBC’s president Jose Sulaiman believes so. At the WBC’s convention last week, Sulaiman noted the importance of the internet, based on the effective results he has seen on their site—over 200,000 visits each month.
All of this leads back to Showtime and it’s decision to make the fight—all the fights—more readily available. With the internet not far behind, it’s absolutely worth it for the premium cable networks to stay ahead.
It appears that’s just what Stephen Espinoza and Showtime, intend to do.
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