Spike TV now can offer boxing, MMA and kickboxing on Friday nights. | Photo: Dave Mandel/Sherdog.com
SANTA MONICA, CALIF. -- Spike TV has almost gotten into the boxing business before, engaging in talks with a who’s who of promoters, but a deal never came to fruition.
Enter Al Haymon, a smooth businessman who has now secured two separate channels (NBC and Spike TV) to house fights for his stable of over 150 fighters. On Thursday, Spike announced its new multi-year deal with Premier Boxing Champions.
For Spike President Kevin Kay, going into business with Haymon was simple; their vision for what boxing should be aligned.
“I think what I wanted hear -- I didn’t just talk to Top Rank before, I talked to everyone -- was that they were going to put on big names in competitive fights,” Kay told Sherdog.com. “I also wanted to hear that they wanted to innovate the production and presentation of it. I turn on fights now and if I didn’t know any better, I’d think it was 1975.
“With Premier Boxing Champions, it felt like we were all on the same page, we want to put fighters first,” Kay added. “We want a broadcast team that is young and looks how the audience looks, all those things were things that I wanted to hear. Too many people think the outcomes are predetermined, so I wanted someone to look me in the eye and say these are going to be competitive fights.”
The first two fights announced for March 13, Andre Berto against Josesito Lopez, and Shawn Porter versus Roberto Garcia are just that; competitive. But it’s not as simple as just putting two men with gloves in the ring and letting them bang it out. For Kay, presentation and promotion is key, and that is where Spike TV comes in.
“I love boxing. I do feel like boxing needs a comeback, it’s kind of in a rut,” Kay said. “It needs someone to come in and change the presentation and do something different with it. Then put it on cable, not charge people $20 a month for six fights a year.”
With boxing now on ESPN, Showtime, HBO, Spike TV, and Fox Sports 1, there will be some stiff competition. But in Kay’s eyes, allowing the fighters to take bouts anywhere only increases the interest in what Spike is trying to achieve.
“I don’t think there is an answer to that yet, I think it’s a discussion we are all having,” Kay said. “What would I would like to see is the more places that these guys fight, the better it is for all of us. If Andre Berto fights on Spike this time, then fights on NBC next time, he is getting the broadest possible audience to him and then when he comes back and fights on Spike it’s going to be even bigger. That’s the beauty of this deal, nobody is signed to anywhere.”
What about the man behind all of this on the boxing side, the aforementioned Al Haymon? While Kay obviously had to deal with the promoter a great deal to put such a large agreement in place, Kay doesn’t offer much insight into one of the biggest mysteries surrounding the boxing landscape.
“He’s like a ghost, his spirit is always with us, he’s legendary,” Kay said while laughing. “The Haymon philosophy is ‘it’s not about me.’ It’s not about the manager, it’s not about promoters, it’s fighters first. He’s legendary not just as a boxing promoter, a concert promoter, as a TV producer. He brings a tremendous amount of experience.”
Just how will Spike TV present its newest programming? Kay laid it out for Sherdog.com, making it clear that Friday nights are going to be the new hub for all things combat sports. In addition, the Viacom-owned channel will provide shoulder programming to help lend insight to who the combatants really are.
“On the Friday night before any particular fight, whether it’s boxing, MMA or kickboxing, you’re going to see shoulder programming,” Kay explained. “That shoulder programming will start a week out, but will let you know you’re going to see whatever event it is next week.
“What we are really trying to do is build Friday night’s as a combat sports destination,” Kay continued. “We are going to re-brand it. So the fans will know that every Friday night on Spike there is going to be a combat sports event. So once a month there is a boxing fight, once a month an MMA event and then eight Glory cards mixed in.”
Cross promotion is also not off the table. Kay lists Joe Schilling as an example of what is possible in having three different promotions in three different combat sports genres under one roof. While a collaboration between any of the three is a long way off, it’s something Spike has been already considering.
“We have talked about it, it just becomes a logistical thing,” Kay said. “Here’s the great thing -- we are far away from ever doing this with boxers, but if you look at Joe Schilling he has already done it with Bellator and Glory. There’s the possibilities that it can happen, but I could see it happening someday down the line. I think the possibilities are greater for Bellator and Glory partnering up to do something like that.”