Deontay Wilder had some stiff competition on television last Saturday night, but even still, the numbers for his successful title defense against Artur Szpilka on Showtime were not encouraging.
Nielsen had the fight averaging 500,000 viewers and peaking at 623,000, an enormous drop from his fight the same weekend the year before, when he beat Bermane Stiverne for the WBC belt. That fight averaged 1.24 million, peaking at 1.34 million, and was a huge hit for Showtime.
That said, his return on Showtime in June against Eric Molina averaged 678,000. His next fight, coming in September, did over two million viewers on NBC, when Wilder fought Johann Duhaupas.
There was certainly some impact on these numbers thanks to the Arizona Cardinals vs Green Bay Packers barnburner, which was an NFL game, first of all, and an NFL playoff game, more importantly. It was also one of the wildest games in recent memory, and there was no tuning out of it if you've already invested time in watching that game.
More likely than not, the real aberration in this discussion, at least for the Showtime fights, is the Stiverne bout. That one was well-promoted, well-hyped, and featured an American puncher with devastating KO power in his first challenge for a world title. Now that he's an American puncher defending the title, and not against serious contenders at that, the game has changed a bit. Wilder alone is not going to be a massive TV draw, at least not yet.
In other words, Wilder needs an opponent and a fight people care about, because simply being "The American Heavyweight Who Punches Hard" does not appear as though it's going to bring in any sort of SPORT-SAVING REVOLUTION! That's probably the thing to take away here: Wilder needs interesting opposition, or he will do fairly normal numbers, which by itself is not a bad thing. In the end, this fight had a lot going against it, and the numbers probably could have been worse, too.