By Zach Arnold | March 7, 2015
— PBC (@premierboxing) March 6, 2015
After watching the debut of Al Haymon’s PBC promotion on NBC with Robert Guerrero vs. Keith Thurman, my impression of what Haymon is attempting to accomplish in his business venture remained unchanged. This business venture will only work if Haymon can convince his television partners long-term to do barter deals instead of massive pay-for-play contracts. The only value for being on network television at this point is if the TV network is all-in promoting the shows (which was not the case with NBC for Saturday’s event) or if Haymon can build up his fighters to cash in on PPV. It’s no different than all the money marks who have tried to compete with UFC over the years. The difference is that Haymon is reportedly bankrolled by a couple of hundred million dollars.
In many ways, I’m not sure what historical context fits best here. We know Haymon would love to create a UFC-style model. By paying television networks money to air shows, it turns those very networks against paying out a lot of money to other promoters for shows. We’ve heard the rumblings, via Steve Kim, that ESPN is growing tired of paying money for Friday Night Fight events. In that respect, Haymon’s ploy feels a bit like Vince McMahon raiding the territories in the 80s and pushing them off the television landscape. The difference is that Top Rank still has HBO in their corner.
— Stephen Espinoza (@StephenEspinoza) March 8, 2015
With the way Haymon is reportedly using money mark cash, it reminds me a bit of the SWS experiment gone wrong in Japan in the early 90s. In April of 1990, All Japan worked with Vince McMahon for the Wrestling Summit event at the Tokyo Dome and New Japan participated as well. McMahon had his various odd requests for certain things on the show. Anyhow, the match that would forever change history there was Gen’ichiro Tenryu vs. Randy Savage. After the spectacle drew big heat, Tenryu and associates bolted All Japan and created SWS the next year. They poached the WWE alliance and thought it would work. It failed. SWS had visions of getting on network TV ala Haymon’s PBC but couldn’t do it. The major difference is that PPV has never been a factor in Japan whereas it is the financial lynchpin for combat sports in North America. The other difference is that Tenryu escaped his SWS failure by turning out to be one of the most brilliant self-promoters ever by working with all the other major promoters. Haymon’s not a star to any casual boxing fan and I’m not sure how many promoters will work with him if PBC fails.
So, I’m not sure the SWS analogy totally fits with what Haymon is trying to pull off. What about an analogy to PRIDE? PRIDE lost big cash under Hiromichi Momose and ended up under the auspices of Fuji TV. Fuji TV pumped in significant cash. A couple hundred million bucks. It proved to draw huge ratings. Sometimes nearly 20 million viewers. The difference is that Fuji TV had the major ad agencies on their side and easily racked up the inventory. With Antonio Inoki’s vision, Fuji TV turned New Year’s Eve into the mega-holiday in all of combat sports. Of course, PRIDE allegedly turned out to be nothing more than a vehicle for different business factions to pass money through with various dummy companies supposedly attached to the operation. I don’t see Haymon’s PBC turning out to be like PRIDE. If UFC hasn’t been able to turn their numbers on Fox into PRIDE-style broadcast TV ratings with Cain Velasquez vs. Junior dos Santos, I seriously doubt Haymon’s going to do the same with Broner or Thurman.
PRIDE worked because Fuji TV had skin in the game. The US networks have no skin in the game with Al Haymon. UFC worked because The Ultimate Fighter clicked and Spike TV went all-in, which in turn helped PPV grow with Tito Ortiz & Ken Shamrock. In order for Haymon to get any return on investment to his financial backers, he will have to get them money on the back-end from PPV or else get money through network television advertising. I could perhaps see the former but definitely not the latter.
The booth is really lacking energy. If they want to continue with Marv and Sugar Ray, need a younger guy in there to add some energy
— FrontRowBrian® (@FrontRowBrian) March 8, 2015
While I was happy to watch the NBC show, I’m still uncertain on what the long game is here and why NBC will look at PBC any differently than they look at a standard NHL game they put on Saturday night to fill television time.