On June 25th Keith Thurman defeated Shawn Porter in a close but unanimous decision on network television. The fight was incredibly entertaining, but the most important thing for the health of the sport was that a viewer didn’t need to pay to watch. Keith Thurman understands how important it is to stay on free TV.
Pay-Per-View fighters make the most money. Boxer compensation has one of the largest spectrums in sports. Some lower pro-level fighters make a few thousand dollars to fight while some fighters can make a minimum purse amount of $100 million before PPV points. Developing a brand, a following, and one’s skills is what takes a fighter to PPV events where he hopes to cash out. However, Keith Thurman wants to stay off PPV.
In the press conference Thurman said:
“I don’t want pay-per-view. I don’t want you to pay for this entertainment. There’s too much world class athletic entertainment [available] for free. I want all of America to see [me fight].”
“I didn’t have HBO growing up. I didn’t have Showtime growing up, and if you have HBO and you have Showtime, and they make it pay-per-view, now you’ve got to come out of your pocket some more [money]. I’m not trying to gouge the American people and the American public. I want to get everybody on my side. I want everybody to have an opportunity to witness ‘One Time’ and I want boxing to come back to the forefront of network television.”
It is estimated that Keith Thurman and Shawn Porter were watched by 2.4 million Americans based on Nielsen ratings. If this fight had been shown on HBO or Showtime, without even considering PPV, the two fighters might have had 50% fewer viewers.
Boxing has an older fan base compared to other sports, which is not just a reflection of the people that grew up with boxing being scheduled viewing for Friday Night Fights, but also because they are the ones who can most afford to buy PPVs. The NBA is exploding in popularity among the 18-24 demographic and a lot of it has to do with content being easily available online and not having any necessary payments outside of paying a cable bill.
Thurman is also being smart developing his own brand. If he made the jump to PPV now he wouldn’t be getting that many buys, but if he held on to network TV a few fights longer to develop a larger following and a better brand then he can really cash out if or when he decides to make his first PPV fight happen.