Espinoza: PBC, Prime deal “a tremendous opportunity” for boxing

Stephen Espinoza says the newly announced deal between PBC and Prime Video is “a tremendous opportunity, not just for PBC, but for the sport overall.” The Showtime Sports President, whose network will broadcast its last-ever boxing card on December 16, told the Showtime Boxing Podcast on Friday that, for boxing to continue to thrive "we need the biggest reach possible, both in terms of marketing and the actual distribution. And that's the great thing about Amazon: you’ve got reach, you’ve got marketing.” 

PBC announced on Thursday that it had entered a deal with Prime Video to carry pay-per-views, shoulder programming and a “PBC Championship Boxing series of events,” beginning in March 2024. The deal follows Showtime’s exit from the sport as a result of what Espinoza said was a fundamental shift in parent company Paramount’s vision of Showtime programming. 

“It was a strategy pivot,” he explained. “It was leadership looking at the Showtime offering and saying okay, it has been built on breadth before. You know, everything from comedy to a little bit of music to documentaries, and sports documentaries, and sports, and it was very well-rounded. And there’s been a very defined shift, so Showtime programming is now very much less about breadth and more about depth. And that depth is going all in on scripted programs. So, it isn't just boxing that has been the casualty; there have been fewer documentaries, whether sports or otherwise, there have been a whole range of other changes. And it really is a strategic shift.” 

Paramount’s decision came despite the fact that Showtime Boxing had one of its most successful years in recent history, highlighted by pay-per-views featuring Gervonta Davis defeating Ryan Garcia and Terence Crawford becoming undisputed welterweight champion by dominating Errol Spence. 

“It's disappointing to have the rug pulled out from us in that way,” Espinoza conceded. “But if we were going to go out, we would certainly want to go out with the strongest presentation, and we did. So, there's certainly a large sense of pride that we ended on such a high note. And I'd like to think that, because we had such a strong year, it contributed to the immediate interest that we and PBC received about what would happen with the programming going forward. I think if we had limped to the finish line, it might have hurt the sport. But I think this year was a great calling card for what the sport can be at its best, and the kind of fights that we can do with regularity.” 

Asked to list the highlights of his 12-year tenure as President of Showtime Sports, Espinoza cited the immense successes of Floyd Mayweather’s pay-per-view bouts against Manny Pacquiao and Conor McGregor, but also the rise of the likes of Davis and Deontay Wilder and some of the events that the network aired in front of large crowds in Britain. 

“Joshua versus Klitschko at Wembley Stadium with 90,000 people, Brook versus Spence in a stadium with 30,000 people, those kinds of atmospheres,” he reflected. “The first Wilder-Fury fight, Wilder’s rise over the last 12 years, Tank’s rise. When you get to see someone literally from their TV debut – or in Tank’s case, before he was on TV – and then are with him for, I think, 13, 14 fights, and seeing him literally grow up in front of you to become a pay per view headliner.” 

As much as the big events, however, Espinoza cited what he called the “consistency” of the company’s production and the “respect” it paid to the boxers it featured. 

“We treated every fight and every fighter with respect and with the appropriate amount of care and dedication,” he said. “Undercard fights were not undercard fights to us. Each fight is valuable on its own. It's not like, ‘Hey, let's get through the undercard so we can get to the main event.’ I think we took pride in giving each fight its due, being objective and delivering fight fans something that was entertaining. And hopefully they learned something about the sport as well.” 

As for his own future, Espinoza claimed that “to be completely candid. I haven't decided.” Noting that he had left his role as a lawyer for Golden Boy Promotions to assume the Showtime position almost exactly 12 years previously, he said that “it's a decision I've never regretted. It's been a fantastic run. I can say with all humility that we've had tremendous success. I'd like to think that we've contributed a lot to the sport; we certainly have done quite literally the biggest events the sport has ever seen. And certainly, boxing was near and dear to my heart before I started, and it is still very much in my blood. There’s still a piece of me that very much wants to continue what we started 12 years ago. I’m also looking at other opportunities. So, you know, I would just say my decision hasn't been made. But there is a very good possibility that I will continue in boxing.”