By Zach Arnold | January 19, 2017
The news: Starting in March 2017, ESPN will air Golden Boy events on ESPN2 and ESPN Deportes. 18 events in 2017, 24 events in 2018, ESPN has an option in 2019. Similar to Fox Sports 1 series except ESPN will not pay Golden Boy a rights fee. Tecate will be the main sponsor.
The big takeaways
First, ESPN’s rationale for doing a TV deal with Golden Boy is being publicly stated as a result of the anti-trust settlement in Los Angeles Federal Court between Bob Arum and Al Haymon to have PBC ditch the TV exclusivity clauses in their deal.
This acknowledgement certainly will be a major component in the Golden Boy/Al Haymon trial in Los Angeles Federal court this March should the judge allow it to proceed. The motion for summary judgment happened in late November and both parties are proceeding, my opinion based on court records, as if this thing is going to trial.
Second, ESPN curiously stated that they were negotiating this Golden Boy TV deal over the last six months. That would put the timetable around July of 2016, a couple of months after the big shareholder derivative lawsuit was filed in Kansas state court against the hedge fund that backed Haymon’s PBC venture. Haymon had a big run of shows in the Spring & Summer of 2016. Things changed after that shareholder lawsuit to try to recover the alleged $525 million dollars remaining in the Media Holdings LLC shell that the hedge fund that put cash into for PBC.
Third, Golden Boy desperately needs television oxygen to recruit fighters. Once Richard Schaefer left, we saw the different direction Golden Boy was heading in with Eric Gomez and
Robert Garcia matchmaker Robert Diaz. TV exposure matters and so does having a business kingpin on your side.
Fourth, ESPN signing the new TV deal with Golden Boy is proof that the network is still interested in boxing but only on a limited, no-risk scale due to the company bleeding households by the millions. The fact that ESPN is publicly acknowledging that they are going to give Golden Boy production control is quite an admission — and one that UFC no doubt is paying close attention to.
With Joe Tessitore doing college football and Todd Grisham doing UFC, it will be interesting to see if Golden Boy will go with reliable hands like Bernardo Osuna or Beto Duran… or if they are willing to hire someone with a bigger profile.
Fifth, Fox Sports 1 should have never allowed Golden Boy to sign a deal with ESPN. They need all the programming they can get. The Golden Boy shows were unspectacular but solid on FS1. Golden Boy could have meant a lot more to Fox than to ESPN, especially given the Southern California connections. Fox blew a chance to make this work.