The biggest combat sports event this month (and easily the biggest one to date for 2017) is the April 29th heavyweight championship bout between Anthony Joshua (18-0 KOs) and Wladimir Klitschko (64-4, 53 KOs) at Wembley Stadium in London, England. At stake will be Joshua’s IBF title, along with the vacant WBA and IBO (not a major sanctioning body) belts left by Tyson Fury after his drug test failure.
While Joshua vs. Klitschko is set to air on Sky Box Office pay-per-view in the UK (at a much much cheaper price than the typical PPV in the US), as well as RTL in Germany (where Klitschko has a multi-million dollar deal with the network to broadcast his bouts), we still do not have an officially announcement on how fans in the United States can view this super showdown.
Joshua recently signed an exclusive US contract for his fights to be shown on Showtime, while Klitschko is with HBO (albeit not on an exclusive deal). The big issue with this fight compared to say, Mayweather vs. Pacquiao, is the time zone difference kills off the American pay-per-view option, so it won’t be one of those HBO-Showtime joint-production broadcasts. ESPN’s Dan Rafael does have more information on what we could see, which is one network airing the fight live while the other broadcasts it on delay.
According to the sources, the networks have agreed to the most significant basic deal point, that Showtime will air the fight live in the late afternoon/early evening and HBO will present a tape-delay of the fight a few hours later in prime time. Showtime would pay more for the fight because it has the live airing and HBO would pay quite a bit less to show it on tape.
But any disparity in the price each network would pay could even out in the long run because Joshua and Klitschko have a two-fight deal. So regardless of who wins the networks would flip positions for the contractual rematch, meaning HBO would have the right to air it live with Showtime getting the delay. Of course, there is no guarantee of a rematch, however, because if Klitschko loses, and he is the underdog, there is a good chance he could retire at age 41 after back-to-back defeats.
HBO and Showtime both plan to have their respective broadcast crews on-site, as opposed to using the Sky feed or having their commentators call the fight off a monitor in a US-based studio.
Rafael noted that one of the sticking points for both networks is the timing of any announcement on broadcast agreements. HBO supposedly wanted to announce it during last Saturday’s Vasyl Lomachenko vs. Jason Sosa card, but Showtime reportedly rejected it because “it would give HBO an advantage, so it wasn’t announced Saturday night.” There isn’t another HBO event scheduled until May, while Showtime’s next big event is Andre Berto vs. Shawn Porter on the 22nd, so time is of the essence given there’s been little promoting of this fight in the US.
HBO also reportedly has one stipulation they want out of Showtime, which frankly doesn’t seem realistic in this day and age: No highlights before HBO’s delayed airing.
Another small, but important detail to HBO, according to one of the sources, is what will take place during the roughly four-hour window between the end of Showtime’s live broadcast and HBO’s tape delay.
HBO wants assurances that Showtime will not release footage of the fight, publicize the result of the fight or do anything else to help spread the word on the outcome following its broadcast -- even though any legitimate fight fan will surely already know what happened.
In the end, the rival networks will surely make a deal -- there’s no way the promoters will allow it to fall apart with that much money at stake in rights payments -- but making the sausage has been brutal.
Hopefully there’s a resolution made and an official announcement can arrive soon, because Joshua has a huge opportunity to make a name for himself with American viewers if he beats Klitschko. It’s just a shame that network politics and contract exclusivity has led to this situation.