EDDIE HEARN has revealed that the decision on Matchroom’s next exclusive broadcast partner will be made within a fortnight and that Sky are currently just one of four different offers currently on the table.
Matchroom and Sky have been exclusive since 2012 and it has been a healthy and mutually beneficial period for both parties. The current agreement, however, runs out this summer.
But things have changed across the boxing landscape since their last extension back in 2015, mainly thanks to online streaming service DAZN who in 2018 handed Matchroom a contract worth up to a $1billion to stage 16 shows a year in America.
That deal has since blossomed into something altogether more far flung with Hearn now promoting shows across the globe which are all shown on DAZN.
“We’ve turned our business around in America,” Hearn says. “We have Canelo Alvarez out there as well, we have a show in Uzbekistan, we were in Gibraltar last week, we are in Miami the week after next, then Barcelona, then Manchester for the pay-per-view on Sky, then we’re in Dallas, then back in the UK for a show on May 15, then we’re in Milan.
“It’s just unbelievable.”
Given the way in which COVID has torn through business in a wide range of industries, Matchroom’s success during the pandemic has been exactly that.
But now Hearn finds himself at a fork in the road, with his Sky deal ending and DAZN attempting to take control of the market in the UK. And with no intention of making making Matchroom a ‘free agent’ who can work with different broadcasters on home soil, a decision on his next exclusive UK partner is imminent.
“Two weeks,” he says, when asked when that will be made. “We’re very close now to making a decision.
“We’ve had four offers come in for a new UK TV deal and of course one of those is from our existing partner and we will have a meeting with them just to see where we are at.
“It’s an extremely difficult decision for us but it’s flattering but we’ve worked hard to get here. We really have built an incredible global business and that’s part of the decision-making process; the global landscape.
“We are the global force, we are probably the only global force. There’s no-one else touching what we are doing or even making a charge globally. We are set to become the UFC of boxing and it’s only a matter of time.”
Hearn, meanwhile, seems distinctly non-plussed by the emergence of a potential challenger to Matchroom in the form of Wasserman Boxing, the result of Wasserman’s intriguing acquisition of Team Sauerland.
“Will it change the landscape? Not at all,” Hearn shrugs.
“I think it’s great that someone else is making a play in boxing but I don’t think it affects anything that we’re doing or anything in the UK space. People ask me about Triller and things like that – it’s basically that anyone who wants to stick money into this game is good news.
“You would hope the deal would push Sauerland beyond where they are now and if it doesn’t then it would be a failure. I don’t know what the plan is and they don’t really have many fighters at the moment but obviously it will be a plan to try and do that. In order to be a major force you need a major TV deal with a huge budget.”
One common theory, therefore, is that Matchroom will sign an exclusive broadcast deal with DAZN, which will then leave Sky open to negotiating with Wasserman.
Hearn says: “I have seen a lot of people saying that but we haven’t made any decisions yet on what we’re going to do. Sky aren’t just going to replace us with a B-option, well not even a B-option, whatever option that is. They’re going to lose a huge powerhouse of subscription drivers.
“But, again, we’re in discussions and we may well extend that [Sky] deal. Of course we know DAZN are extremely aggressive in that space at the moment but you’re only really as powerful as your TV deal in this game. The reason we’ve been able to get to where we got is because of the backing of Sky and we don’t take that for granted. They’re been a huge part of our success and that’s why these conversations are very difficult at the moment.
“But at the same time, anyone can come out and say they are going to take over boxing but without a significant TV deal you have absolutely no chance. You can also understand that if I was to make a broadcast move, it would be for a reason. We’ve got no reason to leave Sky outside of something that would change our life, our vision for the sport and our fighters’ lives as well.”
Hearn’s father, Barry, made his feelings on the Wasserman news clear by simply commenting on their Twitter announcement: ‘joke’.
Hearn Jr explains: “I said to him ‘did you mean to Tweet that?’ and he said ‘yeah they said they are going to take over boxing and that they are the two massive powerhouses’. But I said ‘yeah but they’re our mates, you’re not supposed to put that!’ He said he didn’t mean anything rude by it, it was just a joke. He just thought their comments were quite amusing.
“I actually saw on their Instagram page and they said ‘Wasserman Boxing is Europe’s biggest boxing promoter’. So, he might Tweet ‘joke’ again!”
Another major moment for Hearn’s business is also approaching, with Anthony Joshua’s current deal with Matchroom set to expire this summer. At that point, the IBF, WBO and WBA heavyweight champion of the world would be free to walk away.
Hearn says: “I’m confident he is staying with us, he is a huge part of the business and we are a huge part of his. There is a much deeper partnership that we are involved with moving forward and there will be a big announcement in the next couple of months.”
On Joshua’s Sky deal, Hearn adds: “There are extensions on that, ongoing discussions as well, and there will be some interesting news on that soon about a new partnership with us but that has got a little bit longer.
“Obviously with the force majeure [enforced by COVID] and the delay in fights it puts it back but he has one fight left with Sky. Hopefully his two fights with Tyson Fury which are due to take place this year, there’s no reason why they wouldn’t be on Sky regardless of what we are doing anyway.”