Franchise Thoughts: Boxing Needs 21st Century Media Plan

I exchanged a few tweets with Kevin Iole of Yahoo! Sports yesterday concerning his latest column, the crux of which was the decline of newspaper coverage of boxing and the negative impact it's had on the creation of the next generation of mainstream stars.

Newspapers have so many problems right now that they are in danger of shuffling toward extinction, so I wasn't sure if convincing them to cover the sport again was really a goal worth chasing. But Iole explained that without them to put the bouts in context, to explain to people why they should care about the fights and fighters, there won't ever be the proper awareness of boxing to restore its previous standing in the public consciousness.

The days of boxing "beat writers" for newspapers are gone for good. Network TV, one of the few old school media outlets that can still wield tremendous influence, doesn't seem too interested in boxing either.

With the tools of the past no longer viable, boxing needs to be more open-minded about the present and future. And that's where things need to improve drastically.

Iole points out the sport's solid online presence, but the same article has promoter Lou DiBella and writing legend Michael Katz bemoaning the fact that most internet sites are for hardcore fans only. It's a fair point - you aren't visiting MaxBoxing, Boxing Scene or even a little blog like this one if you aren't already an enthusiast.

Still, the long-form human interest-type stories are out there on the internet. Not just in print either, as web shows like HBO's excellent Ring Life fill the same role. The challenge facing the sport isn't one of content, but of distribution.

That's also true for the fights themselves. Boxing is bigger in many other countries than it is in the U.S., and yet too many fans can't watch the best fights (legitimately anyway) when they air on American premium cable channels or pay-per-view.

Why isn't there streaming video or audio of fights available for a fee to people around the world? I'm sure someone who knows more than I do about the business side of boxing knows the reason, but it better be a good one considering how vital the question appears.

The bigger more popular U.S. sports organizations like the NFL and NBA have been enthusiastic about using emerging technologies to supplement their tried and true publicity efforts, partially because they have an eye on expanding their reach to other countries. Boxing already has a global reach, but it lags behind in figuring out how to exploit it.

Boxing promoters, managers and PR people need to be early adopters. They need to be on top of what the current big thing is in terms of communication (like, say, Twitter) and have their eyes open for the next one as well. They should be cultivating any and all forms of new media, as it's never clear which one may explode and help put the sport in front of a wider audience.

Some retro thinking has helped the live gates for recent fights by putting boxers closer to their local fans. That's a smart way to go, but it's exactly the opposite of the mindset that's necessary to push the sport in-between big bouts.

Newspapers and CBS aren't coming to save the day. We're almost a full decade into the new century, and it's high time for boxing's media approach to reflect that.

Posted by The Franchise

1 comment:

uatu said...

My guess is, and I don't know the business details, is that the NFL and NBA can easier negotiate distribution deals because they are collective leagues. Boxing is fragmented through different promoters who mostly negotiate, at least it appears to me, on a per-event basis.

Look at what the UFC is able to do. That is because they have all of the fighters under contract to them. Boxing doesn't have that.