In an effort to boost awareness for its boxing telecasts, Showtime has set the first three cards for its new Saturday-night fight series.
Looking to build viewer anticipation through scheduling continuity, the premium channel will feature boxing matches on the first Saturday night of each month. The cards will begin Jan. 3, with the lightweight title fight between World Boxing Organization champion Artur Grigorian and former champion Acelino Freitas, Showtime sports and events programming senior vice president Jay Larkin said.
Feb. 7 will feature a live fight between heavyweights James Toney and Jameel McCline and a tape-delayed bout from Moscow, pitting junior welterweight champion Kostya Tszyu against Sharmba Mitchell.
The March 6 card will feature a bout between Joel Casamayor and Diego Corrales — a rematch of a competitive contest that aired Oct. 4, as part of Showtime Event Television's Evander Holyfield-Toney pay-per-view card.
Early confirmation of the fight cards will go a long way toward building appointment viewing for boxing fans —and toward driving ratings for a franchise that already attracts a significant number of viewers, said Larkin, though he would not reveal specific figures.
By setting its fights so far in advance, Showtime may also thwart the potential of dueling cards, which can often cannibalize potential viewers.
Showtime and rival network Home Box Office both scheduled PPV cards on Oct. 4, and while Showtime began its Holyfield-Toney event four hours before HBO's Erik Morales-Guty Espadas matchup, both fights generated lower-than-expected buy-rates.
"Part of our mission is to have a clear story to communicate to the cable and boxing industries, as well as to the boxing fans," Larkin said. "We will be scheduling the best boxing events we can on the first Saturday of each month."