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Ratings report: How has primetime boxing's return to NBC fared compared to UFC on FOX?

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The ratings are in for the first two Premier Boxing Champions cards on NBC, but how do they stack up when compared to the UFC on FOX?

Adam Hunger-USA TODAY Sports

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:

Average Viewership

PBC on NBC (2 cards): 3.13 million viewers
UFC on Fox (14 cards): 3.34 million viewers

Full Viewership Numbers
PBC on NBC
Apr 11, 2015 (final numbers)
2.88 million viewers, 0.8 Adults 18-49
Mar 7, 2015
3.37 million, 1.1 Adults 18-49
_____
UFC on Fox
Jan 24, 2015
3.05 million, 1.2 Adults 18-49
Dec 13, 2014
2.77 million, 1.1 Adults 18-49
July 26, 2014
2.49 million, 1.1 Adults 18-49
Apr 19, 2014
2.53 million, 1.1 Adults 18-49
Jan 25, 2014
3.17 million, 1.5 Adults 18-49
Dec 14, 2013
2.80 million, 1.2 Adults 18-49
July 27, 2013
2.40 million, 1.1 Adults 18-49
Apr 20, 2013
3.70 million, 1.8 Adults 18-49
Jan 26, 2013
4.20 million, 2.1 Adults 18-49
Dec 8, 2012
4.39 million, 2.1 Adults 18-49
Aug 4, 2012; vs. Olympics
2.44 million, 1.2 Adults 18-49
May 5, 2012
2.40 million, 1.2 Adults 18-49
Jan 28, 2012
4.70 million, 2.4 Adults 18-49
Nov 12, 2011
5.70 million, 3.0 Adults 18-49
It's a very very very small sample size, but PBC's averages for their first two events are almost on level pegging with UFC on FOX, and the UFC's average ratings are significantly boosted by their huge debut show featuring Cain Velasquez and Junior dos Santos. UFC on FOX still holds the edge in the 18-49 demographic but their 7 last shows have not attracted as many viewers as their first 7.

An interesting element into PBC on NBC is the removal of mentioning sanctioning bodies to the point where they never referred to Thurman vs. Guerrero as a WBA welterweight championship fight. Info on the boxers is generally limited to weight class, W/L record and number of KOs, with pre-packaged background stories for the feature fighters airing on the broadcast. It's completely different from the UFC, who obviously will call championship fights and #1 contender bouts as such no matter which platform they're on. So far, PBC on NBC has been more focused on the boxers than the belts.


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.