ESPN lands ‘vast and exclusive’ Top Rank boxing deal

Disney-owned network strikes multi-year, multi-platform agreement.

ESPN lands ‘vast and exclusive’ Top Rank boxing deal

US broadcaster ESPN has announced a new multi-year broadcast and streaming agreement with boxing promoters Top Rank.

Under the deal, described in an official release as ‘vast and exclusive’, Disney-owned ESPN will serve as the home of Top Rank boxing in North America, televising live fights and select pay-per-view (PPV) events across its ESPN and ESPN Deportes channels in the US, and on TSN and RDS in Canada.

Fight cards will also be streamed via the ESPN App and the network’s new direct-to-consumer, BAMTech-powered streaming service, which is due to launch early next year with an initial offering of around 10,000 live events per year.

An ESPN statement said that in the first year of the Top Rank deal, the company will showcase 18 main events in the US across multiple platforms in both English and Spanish, and on Canada’s TSN in English and RDS in French.

Programming will be labeled as ‘Top Rank on ESPN’, with all undercards to be shown as well as fight re-runs, archival bouts and dozens of hours of additional content such as studio shows and documentaries.

Financial terms of the agreement, which will reportedly run for four years, have not been disclosed.

“ESPN is excited to announce this new relationship with Top Rank, the most comprehensive and innovative media agreement in the history of the sport,” said Burke Magnus, ESPN’s executive vice president of programming and scheduling.

“We believe in a new vision for boxing that will super-serve existing boxing fans and create legions of new fans through the highest quality boxing content across multiple ESPN platforms – 365 days a year.

“Together, ESPN and Top Rank will build the superstars of tomorrow through unrivalled exposure, original content and cutting edge technology.”

The new deal was first reported in June, when The Ring’s Mike Coppinger revealed that Top Rank’s octogenarian kingpin Bob Arum had been in talks with ESPN executives for several months.

ESPN previously aired July’s fight between Manny Pacquiao, Top Rank’s most high-profile fighter, and Jeff Horn, marking the first time since 2005 that a Pacquiao fight had not been limited to PPV. ESPN claimed an average of 3.1 million viewers for that fight, making it the network's highest-rated boxing event since 1995. 

Creative Artists Agency (CAA) served as Top Rank’s media advisor on the new deal, which all but ends the promoter's ties with its longstanding PPV broadcast partner HBO. CAA will now work with Top Rank and ESPN to manage sponsorship sales alongside the content.

“The deal puts Top Rank and its best-in-class stable of global fighters at the core of ESPN’s combat sports offering across television, PPV and OTT,” said Alan Gold, the head of CAA’s Sports Media Advisory practice.

“Top Rank has consistently and successfully built many of their fighters into global brands, and now will benefit significantly from ESPN’s broad distribution, sales and marketing support and outstanding storytelling.”

The next Top Rank fight card to feature on ESPN will be the 22nd September event in Tucson, Arizona, where featherweight Oscar Valdez and super middleweight Gilberto Ramirez will both attempt to retain their WBO world titles.