Bob Arum’s new venture under ESPN wasn’t a move many saw coming, but according to Arum it was a necessary reality in order to boost the business of boxing. Arum says bringing boxing back to free television in a big way will facilitate bigger audiences — which is why he’s brought his most notable fighters to the network (Manny Pacquiao, Terence Crawford, and Vasyl Lomachenko).
“The UFC showed us that you need free television to advertise your product to people to become familiar with,” Arum said. “Their deal with Fox helped make UFC the product it became, while we in boxing were limiting ourselves to premium networks.”
Pacquiao-Horn, a fight that peaked at 4.4 million viewers on ESPN, was the highest rated event on the network since 1995. It’s also evidence that supports Arum’s move. He says that he always knew that once he could get his product on a network like ESPN, which has huge success with both professional and college football, that he would do big numbers on the network.
“Nothing against HBO and Showtime, but they are premium channels that mostly do entertainment and a little bit of sports and boxing. They are not sports stations, and no one covers sports better than ESPN.”
Arum continued by saying that HBO’s declining interest in boxing, at least in terms of its budget, has proven to be problematic, which is why a fight like Ward-Kovalev would end up on PPV and did poorly in sales -- twice. But instead, he says that the UFC has been able to successfully promote its product for PPVs by using built-in audiences garnered through their shows on Fox and FS1.
So Arum says given the lessons learned, he’s all in on this new ESPN endeavor. He even promises that he’ll continue to provide his best product to the public through the network.