If you need any proof that boxing is still big business, then you can look no further than the recent Mayweather v. Pacquiao match. Headlined as the “Fight of the Century”, the event generated record breaking numbers in pay per view sales, ticket prices, and sponsorship dollars; conservative estimates were around $400 million in revenue.
Roc Nation Sports and BET are taking note and they’re preparing to enter the foray. Recently the two companies announced that they were joining forces on a venture to air up to nine live, two-hour telecasts of boxing events in the next 18 months. Promising to “stretch the boundaries of the sport”, this won’t just be boxing, this is going to be way more than you’re used to.
Speaking with The Associated Press about the upcoming project, Stephen G. Hill, BET’s President of Original Programming, had this to say – “It’s more than just boxing, it’s more than a sporting event, and that’s why we went into it… one of our goals is to approach the personalities of the fighters and the in-between-rounds of entertainment differently than it’s been approached on television before.”
According to reports, the ‘different approach’ that Hill mentions – things like musical performances, DJ sets, etc – has been branded ‘throne boxing’ by Roc Nation Sports founder, Shawn “Jay Z” Carter.
Aside from the musical additions, another goal of the partnership is to add genuine stories and story lines to the fights. Providing more personality to the fighters and the sport, Hill is hoping to expand the audience and perhaps provide a different point of entry for viewers.
“The action will be the same, but we plan to get into the background of the boxers as well. Boxing has been a sport that’s most attractive to males, and if we can attract more males to the channel, that’s fantastic. But we can keep the women engaged with the human interest stories we put around the boxers.” says Hill.
The first main event fight, scheduled for June 20th at Oakland’s Oracle Arena, will feature undefeated WBA Super Middleweight World Champion Andre Ward (27-0), a Roc Nation Sports athlete, taking on former World Title Challenger Paul Smith (35-5) of England.
Ward, who faced hardships recently in his career, has been out of the spotlight for a year and a half, but is looking forward to his BET boxing debut saying, “[it’s] exciting. It’s a new audience, a mainstream audience.”
As BET ventures into new territory, Hill is hoping that the response from viewers will be positive, and that this can set the precedent for the way they approach others sports and potential partners. “We hope the numbers will show that viewers want more, and once we find there’s an interest, we’ll pull this thread as far as it can go… we want to present sports you’re familiar with, in new ways.”