Spike TV’s commitment to Premier Boxing Champions is over.
Launched on the basic cable network with much fanfare in March 2015, with the promise at least 33 monthly cards — nine in 2015 and 12 apiece in 2016 and 2017 — it lasted for 17.
Spike and PBC had a two-year agreement and had negotiated a network option for a third year, but that never made it into the final paperwork, network spokesman David Schwarz told ESPN on Wednesday. The final card aired in January.
Spike had positioned PBC as one of its Friday night combat sports cornerstones, along with Bellator MMA and Glory kickboxing. Schwarz said the reason Spike did not seek to continue its commitment to PBC was twofold: a general dissatisfaction with the quality of cards being provided by PBC founder Al Haymon, as well as the decision to more heavily support Bellator MMA. Viacom, Spike’s parent company, owns Bellator.
Spike was also the only nonpremium network paying a rights fee to PBC for the shows it was putting on, usually a low-six-figure amount to help supplement the often seven-figure costs of the cards. PBC had time-buy arrangements with its other nonpremium cable partners, including NBC, ESPN and Fox.
“Spike aired a PBC fight a few months back [in January]. We have a great relationship and running dialogue with Al and the PBC,” Schwarz told ESPN. “Our focus is on Bellator right now, but if the right fight arises we are all ears.”
Schwarz said that was not just in terms of PBC fights. He said the network was willing to listen to pitches for boxing events from any promoter with a quality fight to offer.
“We’re in discussions with Spike about the future, but nothing is firm yet,” PBC spokesman Tim Smith told ESPN.
The PBC series debuted on Spike in March 2015 with a card featuring former two-time welterweight titlist Andre Berto knocking out Josesito Lopez in the sixth round of an exciting fight. PBC went on to feature several notable fighters, including Adrien Broner and Daniel Jacobs.
But the Spike cards were uneven in terms of quality. For every Amir Khan-Chris Algieri match featuring big names — or action-packed fight-of-the-year contenders, such as Krzysztof Glowacki dethroning longtime cruiserweight titlist Marco Huck and the lightweight title slugfest between Robert Easter Jr. and Richard Commey — there were blatant mismatches. For example: light heavyweight champion Adonis Stevenson’s third-round knockout of Tommy Karpency; Danny Garcia’s seventh-round destruction of Samuel Vargas in a welterweight nontitle bout; and junior middleweight titlist Erislandy Lara’s fourth-round blowout of semi-retired Yuri Foreman.
Lara-Foreman was the main event of Spike’s final PBC card on Jan. 13.
PBC continues to put on regular cards on Fox Sports 1, mainly featuring prospects, and Showtime, which pays seven-figure rights fees. But NBC is essentially finished with the series, having already dropped it from NBC Sports Net and holding off on any remaining network dates until at least this fall, though it is unclear if Haymon has already paid for the time. PBC on ESPN’s new slate of cards was scheduled to debut Friday night but is off with the remainder of the spring slate in question.