The Mythical Boxing Channel

By Andrew Walker - I recently wrote a small piece on the downturn in boxing promotions being shown on British terrestrial television. Although the feedback was on the whole very positive about the article (thank you) the recurring theme and it is also one that is proliferated on the boards of this very site was that what the sport needs is a dedicated subscription based boxing channel. This is the last thing the sport of boxing needs if it is to claw its way back onto the screens and minds of the mainstream public. It is also a pipe dream that could never succeed as a sustainable business..

As outlined in my previous piece the reason boxing has been marginalised off of terrestrial television is because it does not make the channels any profit. To avoid repeating myself please take the time to peruse the previous piece. But in a nutshell the boxing audience do not respond well to the advertising being shown in the ad breaks and so therefore advertisers do not wish to advertise during boxing promotions and therefore TV companies no longer wish to screen boxing as there is no profit in it for them. They may well get decent audiences figure wise at times in the past but those audiences are not responding to the ad placements so the figures mean nothing to the broadcasters. It is like having a stack of worthless stock.

So the hardcore boxing fans are being starved of live boxing in this country, especially since the demise of Setanta. It is understandable that they would want a channel to be born that was dedicated solely to boxing (or even contact sports in general) so they could watch all the world and domestic fights and have shows similar to the Bunce hour where the sport is discussed in more depth with interviews and boxing news. Sounds great doesn’t it? But as I mentioned before it is a pipe dream. The only way something like this could be born is if a wealthy individual or consortium wanted to run the channel at a huge loss.

“No it could work there are thousands of boxing fans who would stump up the necessary subscription for this channel” I hear you say. But the reality is there is no way near enough of you. Not by a long shot. The common figure mentioned for a monthly subscription for a channel like this is between £10 & £30 per month. Let’s split that down the middle and call it £20. Now if this channel was advertised as going live tomorrow how many of you would sign up? That’s actually sign up not be interested or just say you would. I mean get on the blower or their website and hand over your direct debit details.

In that first month probably less than 2000. Now that would net the channel £40,000. Factor in their advertising costs alone and that £40,000 is long gone and then some. Don’t forget your running costs like studio, building rent, employees, insurance etcetera. Then you have to pay the promoters for their promotions or you will not have anything to show. So even taking into consideration that the costs are up for interpretation you are already running at a huge loss.

“But you will make up for it in the long run though won't you all businesses need start up capitol” In short no you won’t. The amount of people out there that would actually sign up for a channel such as this would struggle to break 15,000 people across the whole year. Your membership would stagnate around that figure as some go and others replace them. In all honesty I personally think you would struggle to break 10,000 members. Citing crowds at boxing shows topping 50,000 for stars like Hatton or viewing audiences in the millions for big fights broadcast on terrestrial television in the past does not translate into people interested in the sport enough to buy a boxing channel subscription at £20 per month.

So let’s say you have attracted 15,000 members what does that equate to per year net? The answer is £3.6 million.. That is not going to buy much boxing coverage or pay for much advertising and all the other associated costs of running this mythical channel. You would be bust and deep in debt before you made the end of the year anyway. If you doubt this look at Setanta. They could only muster just over one million subscribers and they were offering their viewers Premiership football, Golf and a whole host of other mainstream sports with huge UK followings plus boxing for less than our proposed £20 per month dedicated boxing channel.

So although the idea of having a boxing channel is great if you are an enthusiast of the sport it makes no sense as a business model and that is why no one with an ounce of business sense would even touch the idea. Maybe you’re still in denial and you think the idea still has merit. You think I’m talking nonsense and that there are loads of boxing fans out there eager to sign up. So then why not go and put your obvious business acumen to the test and go get this channel started? Get yourself along to the BBC and ask to appear on Dragons Den. Tell them you have a wonderful idea about a boxing subscription channel that can’t miss because you know of a few hundred guys on the net who say they would sign up for sure. I wonder what their response would be to you.

Look at the developments surrounding the demise of the Bunce hour. Steve Bunce is a very popular man with the boxing public in the UK (he does have his detractors too but for the most part he is seen as the man) and he has lots of broadcasting connections and contacts. There is an audience for his weekly Bunce hour show but nowhere now to host it. I know there has been a radio slot on BBC London that is similar but it is not the same as a TV show. The Bunce hour is not an expensive show to produce by TV standards and the excellent Bring Back Bunce website proves there is support for one. But despite this there have been no takers so far. Let’s hope that gets rectified soon.

I apologise if I have annoyed or upset anyone with regards to the boxing channel idea. I’ am myself just as much a fan of the sport as the next guy. Maybe if it was a channel marketed to a world audience instead of a UK one alone there could be some scope but that would bring extra expense alongside the extra subscribers. But if it made any sort of sense at all don’t you think Frank Warren or one of his contemporaries would get behind such a proposal? In any case as previously stated even if someone did pull it off it would do little good for the sport in the long term. What boxing needs to do is clean its house and get back into the minds and hearts of the British public. Best way to do that is on a terrestrial channel and to make them interested again boxing needs to attract a more diverse type of fan. This is the key to survival for boxing in my opinion. When advertisers see that there is money to be made in the sport again they will soon comeback like the vultures that they are.

Article posted on 04.08.2009

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