Main Events, NBC Pleased with Tyson Fury vs. Steve Cunningham TV Ratings
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Main Events, NBC Pleased with Tyson Fury vs. Steve Cunningham TV Ratings
By Matthew Paras, Doghouse Boxing (May 13, 2013)

Tyson Fury vs. Steve 'USS' Cunningham Fight Poster
(Tyson Fury vs. Steve 'USS' Cunningham)
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The ratings are in for the second boxing card on NBC and promoter Main Events is pleased with the turnout.
On April 20th, Main Events hosted a card at the Theater at Madison Square Garden’s with heavyweights Tyson Fury and Steve Cunningham in the featured main event. The card, which aired at 4 p.m. Eastern on NBC, drew an average of 1.2 million viewers, peaking at 1.7 million, according to Nielsen ratings. Fury won the fight by knockout in the seventh round.
“We do not have anything to add to the information you obtained from Nielsen but we can say that everyone was very happy with the broadcast,” Main Events said in a recent press statement. “As far as we can tell from publicly released ratings, it appears we had the highest rated boxing program in the United States in 2012 and now the highest rated program so far in 2013, which feels pretty good!”
Fury-Cunningham was the second boxing card to air on NBC during a Saturday afternoon. The first, featuring a rematch between Cunningham and rival Tomasz Adamek on December 22, drew a rating of 1.6 million viewers and peaked at 3.2 million.
While Fury-Cunningham drew lower ratings, it’s important to note the direct competition up against the event. That Saturday, Fury-Cunningham went directly against Game One of the Boston Celtics-New York Knicks series. Compare that to the competition Adamek-Cunningham II faced (up against regular season college basketball games) and the rating is very impressive.
NBC thinks so too.
“Our ‘Fight Night’ telecasts have drawn strong viewership as evidenced by the 1.2 million who tuned in on May 20,” said Gary Quinn, Vice President of Programming at NBC Sports Group. “We look forward to programming future ‘Fight Night’ shows on NBC Sports Network and NBC.”
The week after Fury-Cunningham saw a direct clash in ratings between HBO and Showtime.
Of course it wasn’t the first time the two networks went head to head but it was the first time the networks went head to head after HBO vowed to stop working with Golden Boy Promotions. On HBO, Sergio Martinez vs. Martin Murray drew in a 696,000 viewers while Showtime’s Danny Garcia-Zab Judah battle drew in an average of 580,000.
What’s more interesting is that when it comes to the peak number, Garcia-Judah peaked at 804,000 viewers compared to Martinez-Murray peaking with 747,000 viewers. While Martinez-Murray went on earlier than expected due to weather issues in Argentina, it shows that Showtime is closing the gap in the ratings department.
The last time boxing fans had to choose between Showtime and HBO on a Saturday night was on December 15. HBO dominated the night by having Nonito Donaire vs. Jorge Arce draw 1.3 million viewers while Amir Khan vs. Carlos Molina on Showtime peaked at 616,000. Before that, the two companies counterprogrammed against each other on November 10 with HBO having the better average with 607,000 viewers for Erislandy Lara vs. Vanes Martirosyan compared to Abner Mares vs. Anselmo Moreno peaking at 504,000 viewers.
So what’s the big deal about 804 and Showtime having a bigger peak?
For the first time since at least 2010, Showtime had a bigger peak rating than HBO on the night they went head to head. The network often considered to be the little brother of HBO and focused on picking up the scraps HBO didn’t (or, in the Ross Greenburg years, couldn’t because of overspending) is now a serious rival to the “Network of Champions.”
HBO may have the better average ratings - and that’s also important to note when judging - but they also have a larger subscriber base by six million. To HBO’s credit, it’s hard to tell how many of those six million tune into just boxing. As it stand right now, HBO has the better ratings overall.
Still with the two networks producing an excellent amount of content, could the true impact of this “Cold War” be that ratings are actually suffering because of it? It’s not like numbers that mark below a million are particularly impressive. Together, the events surpass a million but I have to wonder if network executives – particularly HBO – are okay with their individual numbers being below their average.
Even this year, HBO hasn’t seen higher ratings like Julio Cesar Chavez Jr.’s 1.9 million or Bernard Hopkins’ 1.6 million from last year. HBO’s Vice President of Programming Kery Davis told that their cards averaged around 1.2 million. This year, through six events, HBO’s average is around 1.1 million. The number is consistent but the company hasn’t had any exceptional numbers either.
If this “Cold War” continues (and there’s no indication it’s ending anytime soon), it will be fascinating to see if there’s constant counterprogramming between the networks. Sometimes counterprogramming is just unavoidable with only a certain amount of dates but with April 27’s ratings being so close to each other – one has to wonder if this war will escalate as a war for viewers.
If it does, the positives and negatives of that will be interesting to monitor.
When I first did a piece on television ratings for Maxboxing, I included a list of HBO’s ratings from 2011 until the first half of 2012. Below are the second half of 2012 and the first part of 2013, according to Nielsen.
September 1, 2012: “HBO Boxing After Dark” (Gennady Golovkin vs. Grzegorz Proska) averaged 685,000 viewers watching Live + Same Day.
September 8, 2012: “HBO World Championship Boxing” (Andre Ward vs. Chad Dawson) averaged 1.3 million viewers watching Live + Same Day.
September 29, 2012:  “HBO Boxing After Dark” (Edwin Rodriguez vs. Jason Escalera) averaged 904,000 viewers watching Live + Same Day.
October 13, 2012:  “HBO Boxing After Dark” (Nonito Donaire vs. Toshiaki Nishioka) averaged 835,000 viewers watching Live + Same Day.
November 10, 2012: “HBO Boxing After Dark” (Vanes Martirosyan vs. Erislandy Lara) averaged 667,000 viewers watching Live + Same Day.
November 17, 2012: “HBO World Championship Boxing” (Adrien Broner vs. Antonio DeMarco) averaged 1.1 million viewers watching Live + Same Day.
November 24, 2012: “HBO World Championship Boxing” (Robert Guerrero vs. Andre Berto) averaged 1.1 million viewers watching Live + Same Day.
December 15, 2012: “HBO World Championship Boxing” (Nonito Donaire vs. Jorge Arce) averaged 1.3 million viewers watching Live + Same Day.
January 19, 2013: “HBO Boxing After Dark” (Gennady Golovkin vs. Gabriel Rosado) averaged 815, 000 viewers watching Live + Same Day. (Note: The main event Mikey Garcia against Orlando Salido did 760,000).
February 16, 2013: “HBO World Championship Boxing” (Adrien Broner vs. Gavin Rees) averaged 1.4 million viewers watching Live + Same Day.
March 9, 2013: “HBO World Championship Boxing” (Bernard Hopkins vs. Tavoris Cloud) averaged 1.2 million viewers watching Live + Same Day.
March 16, 2013: “HBO World Championship Boxing” (Tim Bradley vs. Ruslan Provodnikov) averaged 1.2 million viewers watching Live + Same Day.
March 30, 2013: “HBO Boxing After Dark” (Mike Alvarado vs. Brandon Rios II) averaged 1.1 million viewers Live + Same Day.
April 13, 2013: “HBO World Championship Boxing” (Guillermo Rigondeaux vs. Nonito Donaire) averaged 1.1 million viewers watching Live + Same Day.
April 27, 2013: “HBO World Championship Boxing” (Sergio Martinez vs. Martin Murray) averaged 696, 000 viewers watching Live + Same Day. (Note: Bermane Stiverne vs. Chris Arreola did 747,000).
2012 average: 1.1 million viewers with 17 events.
2011 average: 1.1 million viewers with 21 events.
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