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Showtime will be absorbed into Paramount+, so what could that mean for boxing?

After 47 years, Showtime as we know it will soon be gone. Will the change also mark the end of 37 years of boxing?

Will Paramount+ with Showtime equal Showtime minus boxing?
Will Paramount+ with Showtime equal Showtime minus boxing?
Photo by Jakub Porzycki/NurPhoto via Getty Images

Someone prepare Jimmy Lennon Jr.: It’s not Showtime anymore. Instead, get ready for “Paramount+ With Showtime” on cable and streaming.

Earlier today, Deadline published a story citing internal communications from Chris McCarthy, President and CEO of Paramount Media Networks, and Bob Bakish, President and CEO of parent company Paramount Global, outlining the complete restructuring and rebranding of the Showtime premium cable channel before the end of this year.

From the Bakish memo:

I’m thrilled to share the next step in our company’s evolution. Today, we’re announcing that we will be fully integrating SHOWTIME into Paramount+ across both streaming and linear platforms later this year — providing even more popular franchises and hit originals for viewers to enjoy. To reflect this change, both our premium streaming tier on Paramount+ and the SHOWTIME linear network will become “Paramount+ with SHOWTIME” in the U.S.

It’s a stunning move that marks the end of Showtime’s 47-year standalone identity as a premium cable channel. It also marks another evolution of the parent company formerly known as ViacomCBS, less than a year after it was also rebranded and restructured as Paramount.

A follow-up memo from McCarthy cited an emphasis on “Redirecting Investment into SHOWTIME Strengths,” saying:

As a part of Paramount+, we can put more resources into building out the lanes that have made the SHOWTIME brand famous[...]

...specifically mentioning “complex characters” and “powerful worlds” in scripted series like “Yellowjackets,” “Dexter,” and “Billions,” among others.

Conspicuously and completely absent from both the Bakish and McCarthy memos outlining both Showtime’s notable history and the vision for the future of Paramount+ with Showtime are the words “Sports” and “Boxing.”

It’s an ominous omission, given a line in McCarthy’s memo stating:

[W]e will divert investment away from areas that are underperforming and that account for less than 10% of our views.

That statement came out shortly before a second Deadline report that Showtime will not produce second seasons of original series “American Gigolo” and “Let the Right One In,” and will not proceed with the completed first season of “Three Women,” a new scripted series starring Shailene Woodley and Betty Gilpin, which will be shopped elsewhere.

The comments and moves are very reminiscent of similar transitions at HBO, which famously dropped boxing completely back in 2018 after 45 years and over 1,000 fights.

Then-VP of HBO Sports Peter Nelson said at the time: “Our audience research informs us that boxing is no longer a determinant factor for subscribing to HBO.” Not even two years later, Nelson joined boxing in the “formerly of HBO” category, as part of an ongoing disengagement from sports programming and layoffs of over 600 WarnerMedia/AT&T employees.

Since then, HBO and the streaming platform currently known as HBO Max have been part of a series of spinoffs, mergers, rebrandings, and reorganizations involving cancellations of existing properties, and the vaulting of completed projects never to be released for cost-savings and tax break benefits.

For a boxing fan, it’s all distressingly similar, only this time with boxing’s future unmentioned and unresolved, rather than eliminated at the start of the process. If the worst does come to pass, it would mark the end of almost 37 years of boxing on Showtime, and the last of boxing on premium linear cable channels in the United States.

The potential end of Showtime boxing would also have obvious second and third order effects on Al Haymon’s Premiere Boxing Champions, a primary Showtime broadcast partner and major content provider, and potentially the current boxing pay-per-view business model.

McCarthy’s memo announced a Feb. 23 company town hall meeting in Los Angeles with further details. Bad Left Hook will provide news and updates on what comes next for Paramount+ with Showtime, and whatever future boxing may have in connection with it, as details become available.

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