HBO & Showtime In Tough Negotiations for Joshua-Klitschko

At the end of this month, Anthony Joshua and Wladimir Klitschko will finally meet in one of the more anticipated heavyweight title fights in recent memory. The fight will be massive around the globe, but in the United States there remains some problems with the television distribution of the bout.

The top two premium networks for boxing in the U.S., HBO and Showtime, have already made deals with the promoters involved (Matchroom Boxing representing Joshua, K2 Promotions for Klitschko).

But Joshua has an exclusive contract with Showtime as Klitschko does with HBO, which causes the networks to negotiate a fair way for the fight to take place and be distributed without either losing out. According to a recent story by ESPN, those talks have not been going smoothly.

Dan Rafael writes that the networks have yet to iron out the details but have agreed on a few terms: Showtime would pay more to air the fight live in the early afternoon, while HBO would air it on tape delay later that night. As there is a rematch clause in the contract for the fight, HBO and Showtime would conceivably flip roles for the second fight, meaning that costs would eventually even out.

The issues have stemmed from the two networks butting heads over how each can promote the fight without getting a leg up on the other:

HBO, according to one of the sources, said it wanted the announcement to come during its telecast of the Vasyl Lomachenko-Jason Sosa card on Saturday night. According to one source, Showtime Sports boss Stephen Espinoza said no to that scenario because “it would give HBO an advantage, so it wasn’t announced Saturday night.”

HBO has no more boxing events between now and April 29 on which to promote the fight. Showtime still has a “ShoBox” card on Friday night and a “Showtime Championship Boxing” event on April 22, but the fight is getting close, and there is precious little time remaining for either network to seriously promote such a big fight.

The view of one of the sources involved is that “there’s a lot of gamesmanship going on on the part of both networks. Who knows what they’re going to do or if they’re even willing to go with the deal they’ve negotiated at this point.”

Another sticking point for HBO is how the window of time between Showtime’s live broadcast and their tape delay will go. According to Rafael’s report, HBO has very specific requests for what Showtime can and cannot do between the two broadcasts:

"HBO wants assurances that Showtime will not release footage of the fight, publicize the result of the fight or do anything else to help spread the word on the outcome following its broadcast — even though any legitimate fight fan will surely already know what happened."

The deal between Showtime and HBO will likely be finalized soon as it is a necessity, but this report gives an interesting look at what goes on behind the scenes when the two major boxing networks in the U.S. have a stake in such a big fight.

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