As Disney and ESPN continue to feed its direct-to-consumer offering ESPN+, they have set a historic deal with boxing promoter Top Rank. The seven-year deal runs from 2018 to 2025 and is billed by the companies as the most comprehensive, exclusive rights deal in the history of boxing.
The agreement, brokered by CAA on behalf of Top Rank, will yield 54 events per year as well as a full offering of exclusive shoulder programming, classic fights and studio content.
Top Rank on ESPN programming will air on ESPN linear networks or stream on ESPN+, which launched in the spring as a $5-per-month, direct-to-consumer play. There will be 18 events on ESPN, 12 exclusive, prime time events on ESPN+, 24 international events on ESPN+ and undercard coverage of all 54 events on ESPN+.
The deal follows a strong ratings performance during the first year of Top Rank on ESPN. Manny Pacquiao’s fight with Jeff Horn in July 2017, for example, drew an average viewership of 3.1 million viewers and a peak of 4.4 million viewers. That made Horn’s defeat of Pacquiao the highest-rated boxing telecast on cable since 2006 and ESPN’s highest-rated boxing telecast since 1995.
“By creating and distributing significantly more Top Rank events and boxing content, ESPN and Top Rank will jointly cultivate upcoming fighters and fights, creating the stars of tomorrow while providing fans with the sport’s best content in a more personalized manner,” said Jimmy Pitaro, ESPN President and Co-Chairman, Disney Media Networks.
“Our collective ability to integrate live events, classic fights, studio shows, and behind-the-scenes features will raise the long-term profile of the sport of boxing and the athletes,” said Todd duBoef, President of Top Rank.
Kevin Mayer, Chairman, Direct-to-Consumer and International, The Walt Disney Company, said the expanded relationship with Top Rank “increases the ability of ESPN+ to serve boxing fans better than ever and allows us to continue to build more direct relationships with this incredibly passionate audience.”