Combat sports will soon be a thing of the past on Showtime.
After close to forty years of operation, Showtime Sports, home to a long list of pivotal boxing events, is closing its doors at the end of the year.
Showtime’s parent company Paramount Global released the following statement to Sports Business Journal:
“As we evolve our strategy to more efficiently allocate resources and align our content offering across the business, we’ve made the difficult decision not to move forward with boxing and other content produced by the Showtime sports team. Showtime will continue to air and support the remaining 2023 boxing slate and honor obligations through the end of the year.”
Showtime Sports President Stephen Espinoza cited the “rapidly evolving media marketplace” and “resetting priorities” in a separate statement. Espinoza took over the brand in 2011 and prioritized boxing and managed to lock in Floyd Mayweather Jr. to a six fight multiyear deal the next year. During his tenure, highly anticipated and lucrative fights such as Mayweather. vs Manny Pacquiao, Mayweather vs then UFC double champion Conor McGregor, Anthony Joshua vs. Wladimir Klitschko and Deontay Wilder vs. Tyson Fury among many others were aired.
Previous to Espinoza, Showtime established itself as a key player in boxing when it secured the exclusive broadcast rights to former heavyweight champion Mike Tyson, one upping rival HBO. HBO aired its final boxing event in 2018.
The news leaves several leading names in combat sports with uncertain futures. The Al Haymon led Premier Boxing Champions, which has an exclusive deal with Showtime, is already looking at DAZN and Amazon Prime for another broadcast home according to ESPN’s Mike Coppinger.
Bellator, which is owned by Paramount, has aired primarily on Showtime in the United States since 2021. However, rumors have swirled for months regarding a potential sale of the promotion. In June, Bellator’s President Scott Coker confirmed the reports while naming competing Professional Fighter’s League as a possible buyer.
An unnamed source told journalist Ariel Helwani that the promotion’s next scheduled event, Bellator 301 which will be in Chicago on Nov. 17, is moving “full steam ahead” but that it would likely be its last of the year and the finale under the current ownership.
After the new year all, Paramount Global sports programming will be through CBS Sports. As of now, CBS Sports is not planning to air any boxing events. The end of boxing on the network and the offloading of a top mixed martial arts promotion would effectively end an era of high-level fights that include a host of champions and historic moments.