Showtime Sports Still Throwing PPV Punches With Benavidez-Plant Boxing Event (Q&A)

David Benavidez (L) and Caleb Plant meet in a March 25 Showtime PPV boxing match
David Benavidez (l.) and Caleb Plant will meet in a March 25 Showtime PPV boxing match (Image credit: Showtime)

Showtime will step into the pay-per-view boxing ring Saturday with a fight card highlighted by the super middleweight bout between undefeated contender David Benavidez and former champion Caleb Plant. 

The fight, which retails for a suggested price of $74.99, is Showtime’s second PPV boxing event this year following Gervonta Davis-Hector Garcia on January 7. The premium network has also scheduled an April 22 event with Davis and Ryan Garcia. 

Showtime Sports president Stephen Espinoza

Stephen Espinoza (Image credit: Showtime Sports)

Showtime Sports president Stephen Espinoza recently spoke to Multichannel News regarding the Benavidez-Plant event and Showtime’s overall PPV event strategy for 2023. Espinoza also addresses Showtime Sports’s immediate future in light of parent company Paramount Global’s decision to combine Paramount Plus and Showtime under one brand. A lightly edited version of the interview appears below.

MCN: What makes Benavidez-Plant a strong pay-per-view boxing match? 

Stephen Espinoza: Both Benavidez and Plant have been built up as main-event fighters for a number of years. Plant, in particular, got a big boost in his (2021) mega-fight against [undisputed super middleweight champion] Canelo Alvarez, and Benavidez has headlined a number of boxing telecasts. They are two of the best fighters in the division, so for us this is one of those situations where two plus two equals a lot more than four because each of them brings their own respective fan base, and there’s a lot excitement about the quality of the matchup itself, which will bring in even more interest from viewers. When you offer top-tier fights, you get an exponential return.

MCN: Are you already looking ahead to developing another pay-per-view event with the winner of Benavidez-Plant?

SE: Yes, as I mentioned these are two of the three or four best guys in the division. Benavidez has been someone that boxing experts have identified for a couple of years as a very exciting and marketable fighter with a really high ceiling. For him, this is a signature fight that hopefully will lead to even bigger events with some of the division’s top fighters, whether it’s Canelo or [middleweight champion] Jermall Charlo. For Plant, he’s been at the top of the mountain as champion, and he gave Canelo a very tough fight. To be able to get another opportunity at the title he’s going to have to go through David Benavidez. There’s a lot of high stakes in this one because of what the fight could lead to in the future. 

MCN: The fight is the second PPV event already this year for Showtime, with a third scheduled for April. Why is Showtime so bullish on the PPV events category? 

SE: It’s more about the fights that are available and what it takes to make them. We've seen a lot of change and disruption in combat sports generally, and in boxing in particular over the last four or five years and we’re at the point now where the dust has settled a bit. We love the position that we as Showtime Sports are in. Our talent is deeper than ever, and we’re doing as many events as we've ever done. So when you see a matchup like Benavidez-Plant or a matchup like Tank Davis-Ryan Garcia next month, it's not so much a result of us wanting to be in pay-per-view. We want to do big fights, and as those big fights are getting made some of them will naturally require pay-per-view in order to make them happen. 

MCN: Given Paramount Global’s plans to merge Paramount Plus and Showtime, are you concerned about Showtime Sports’s ability to remain aggressive in the combat sports space? 

SE: I think everybody in the media business is somewhat concerned. Some people have called it a market correction, and some think it’s just an economic downturn. Certainly this is a period of transition as companies are adjusting their spend and trying to optimize business models. So there certainly may be change in the future, but our activity level and the quantity and quality of our output I think is a testament to the recognition of the quality that we bring. The fact that we’ve been given the green light to continue doing what we do best, which is delivering big-time boxing matches and high-quality documentary programming, is a recognition that we’re delivering value to our subscribers and to the corporation as a whole, and we look forward to being able to do that for the foreseeable future. ■ 

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.