Al Haymon's Premier Boxing Champions series has just completed its 2nd live primetime event on NBC, as the manager-adviser aims to vastly reshape how boxing is televised in the United States. Right out of the gate, the ratings for the March 7th card, headlined by Keith Thurman and Robert Guerrero, averaged 3.4 million viewers and peaked at 4.2 million for the main event. This past weekend's show in Brooklyn, NY saw ratings decline to 2.9 million average (final number) with a 3.4 million peak for the main event between Danny Garcia and Lamont Peterson. On both occasions, PBC on NBC was the top-rated primetime program for the highly coveted adult 18-49 demographic.
NBC is contracted for 3 more primetime events (broadcast from 8:30-11 PM ET), as well as a few more afternoon shows both on the main channel. The goal of PBC, speaking strictly from a television standpoint, appears to be to eliminate the current market of HBO and Showtime having the overwhelming bulk of the sport's top fighters and fights, and instead delivering live fight cards to network and cable TV to the American audience who otherwise don't subscribe to either HBO or Showtime and don't regularly purchase pay-per-views. Only NBC has a primetime network deal, while CBS is exclusively for Saturday afternoons, and ABC will have at least 1 afternoon card as part of PBC's deal with ESPN.
As this pertains to the MMA fan, it represents a sizeable shift in the television landscape for combat sports. The UFC had virtually been the only major game in town as far as boxing or MMA on free-to-air television (since the FOX deal was signed in 2011), but the addition of PBC to NBC and CBS has changed things up a bit. Since NBC is the one with the primetime agreement that is most similar to the current UFC on FOX set-up, it's also the easiest one to make boxing vs. UFC ratings comparisons out of.
Awful Announcing did a ratings breakdown of the first two PBC on NBC cards, as well as the 14 UFC on FOX shows to date, citing final numbers, and the Nielsen ratings points for the Adult 18-49 demographic:
PBC on NBC (2 cards): 3.13 million viewers
UFC on Fox (14 cards): 3.34 million viewers
Full Viewership NumbersPBC on NBCApr 11, 2015 (final numbers)2.88 million viewers, 0.8 Adults 18-49Mar 7, 20153.37 million, 1.1 Adults 18-49_____UFC on FoxJan 24, 20153.05 million, 1.2 Adults 18-49Dec 13, 20142.77 million, 1.1 Adults 18-49July 26, 20142.49 million, 1.1 Adults 18-49Apr 19, 20142.53 million, 1.1 Adults 18-49Jan 25, 20143.17 million, 1.5 Adults 18-49Dec 14, 20132.80 million, 1.2 Adults 18-49July 27, 20132.40 million, 1.1 Adults 18-49Apr 20, 20133.70 million, 1.8 Adults 18-49Jan 26, 20134.20 million, 2.1 Adults 18-49Dec 8, 20124.39 million, 2.1 Adults 18-49Aug 4, 2012; vs. Olympics2.44 million, 1.2 Adults 18-49May 5, 20122.40 million, 1.2 Adults 18-49Jan 28, 20124.70 million, 2.4 Adults 18-49Nov 12, 20115.70 million, 3.0 Adults 18-49
One very important thing worth noting is that PBC's network deals are time-buy arrangements, meaning Haymon and his financial backers are paying NBC and company to air their product, as opposed to FOX purchasing exclusive rights to UFC content. It's reasonable to assume that PBC's end game is to parlay viewer interest and ratings successes into an actual rights deal instead of the time-buy.
So far so good for PBC on NBC, but will their solid start hold through the rest of the year? We'll have to wait to find out. This isn't meant to rekindle the whole "boxing vs. UFC" debate, but to use a point of reference in observing the television drawing power that both sports currently command.
As an aside, keep an eye on how PBC fares on Spike, as they've just managed to get star British welterweight Amir Khan's fight with Chris Algieri to headline their May 29th event in Brooklyn. However disagreeable that fight may be from a hardcore fan's perspective, Khan has been a main event regular on HBO and Showtime, so he's easily one of the biggest names in the sport to appear on PBC's cards.