Showtime, ESPN+ Land Big Punches With Competing Premium Ring Sports Events

Usually when two marquee premium ring events compete against one another, one or both of the events tend to suffer from a performance perspective.

Manny Pacquiao (r) defeats Adrien Broner in Showtime PPV boxing event.

Manny Pacquiao (r) defeats Adrien Broner in Showtime PPV boxing event.

But this past Saturday’s live UFC card on subscription streaming sports service ESPN+ and Showtime’s Manny Pacquiao-Adrien Broner pay-per-view boxing match drew impressive performance numbers despite the competition, according to the distributors.

The inaugural Jan. 19 UFC Fight Night on ESPN+ event in New York featuring 13 live fights -- including TJ Dillashaw’s 32-second knockout win to defend his flyweight championship -- drew a whopping 568,000 new subscribers for the $4.99 per month ESPN+ service on Friday and Saturday combined, according to ESPN officials.

The event was the first collaboration between the UFC and ESPN as part of a new five five-year distribution deal between the two companies. The network has already announced its first quarter UFC event lineup -- which includes more than 36 hours of live UFC action on ESPN+. The network is hoping its UFC content will continue to boost subscriber numbers for ESPN+, which has already surpassed the 1 million subscriber mark in less than a year after its April 2018 launch.

In Las Vegas that night, Showtime was offering its first pay-per-view boxing card of 2019 featuring boxing legend and current welterweight champion Manny Pacquiao and former champion Adrien Broner. The fight, in which Pacquiao scored an easy, unanimous decision win, drew approximately 400,000 PPV buys, according to published reports. While the performance pales in comparison to the 4.5 million buys Pacquiao generated for his record-setting 2015 fight with Floyd Mayweather, the fight -- at a suggested retail price of $55 -- reportedly performed above expectations.

It’s also marks a good start for the PPV boxing category, which will offer two more fights over the next three months, including Fox Sports’ March 16 Mikey Garcia-Errol Spence Jr. fight, and ESPN/Top Rank Inc.’s April 20 Terence Crawford-Amir Kahn welterweight championship fight. 

R. Thomas Umstead

R. Thomas Umstead serves as senior content producer, programming for Multichannel News, Broadcasting + Cable and Next TV. During his more than 30-year career as a print and online journalist, Umstead has written articles on a variety of subjects ranging from TV technology, marketing and sports production to content distribution and development. He has provided expert commentary on television issues and trends for such TV, print, radio and streaming outlets as Fox News, CNBC, the Today show, USA Today, The New York Times and National Public Radio. Umstead has also filmed, produced and edited more than 100 original video interviews, profiles and news reports featuring key cable television executives as well as entertainers and celebrity personalities.