August 29th 1997 is not a date that will ring many bells for boxing fans. There were fights that day, of course there was, but nothing too important, despite fighters like Denkaosan Kaovichit, Osamu Sato, Orlando Salido, Yoddamrong Sithyodthong, Verno Philips, Eric Harding and Noel Arambulet all fighting that day. It is however a date that is incredibly important in modern day media consumption.
It was the date that Netflix was founded.
Now, almost 24 years on, Netflix has grown, and grown and has been a key player in the move away from physical media, and renting games and movies, to digital media and online streaming. They have also come across a problem in recent years. They are a victim of their own success. Their brilliant idea, and the technology they've used to bringing movies and TV streaming to everyone's house has started to be a very saturated and fragmented market in recent years.
Right now Netflix is under threat from Disney +, Amazon Prime, HBO Max, Apple TV, Hulu and so many other options that are seeing customers wallets taking a pounding. What used to be a cheap, all in one option to stream things has, within a decade, become a market so fragmented that it's no longer a cheap and cheerful option and there's always something on one of the other services that people will want to watch.
With that said you're now wondering why I'm mentioning this on a boxing website. You're here for boxing, and not someone to tell you about Netflix. Well the reality is that we are about to see the same issue in boxing. The sport, which has never been cheap to follow, is now set to become incredibly expensive, at least you're a UK fan wanting to follow as many fights as possible. Boxing is set to have it's own Netflix situation.
Going back to 2000 Sky were the only dog in town. They had a mix of UK fights, live fights from abroad and even fights from Japan. Amazingly they actually showed Hozumi Hasegawa's second bout with Veeraphol Sahaprom from 2006.
Now however the broadcast of the sport is amazingly fractured in the UK.
Sky have remained a player in the sport, and whilst their deal with Matchroom is about to end they are expected to remain involved in the sport, though have very much kept to the British scene over the last year or two. But there's now also BT Sport and Premier Sport, which includes Boxnation, involved in televising the sport. That's 3 TV subscriptions to watch boxing in the UK.
There is also major bouts being shown on streaming services DAZN and Fite TV, as well the newly launched Fight Zone TV, another online streaming service focusing on domestic bouts in the UK.
That's before we even look at some of the online services aimed at niche fans wanting to watch things regularly from Japan, such as isakura and Boxing Raise (which now requires a VPN it's self) or Punchinggrace.com for shows from Eye of the Tiger Management in Canada.
Sky, which was once a one size fits all service showing a decent amount of action is now, is now a relatively minor player and fans are, at the end of the day, the losers missing out on fights that years ago would be expected to be shown on TV.
Just for DAZN and FightZone the cost is around £7, then add in Sky (which is awkward to price up but we'll got with £33.99 which is a price available to everyone through Now TV), then add BT Sport on Top, then Premier Sport the month cost is well over £70 a month. That's ignoring all the Sky Sports PPV's, which have been creeping up in price from £14.99 up to £25.99 and are expected to hit £29.99 sooner rather than later, as well the Fite TV PPV's, which can be around £12.99.
Again that's ignoring all the actual niche services, like Boxing Raise and Isakura, and we're already looking at needing 2 monthly services, 3 subscription TV services and the PPV's on Fight TV.
The price to watch the sport in the UK is then looking close to, if not over, £100 a month. And there's no guarantee, month to month, about what fights will be shown where.
Now, sure, Matchroom taking their content to DAZN, which is £1.99 in the UK, is a bargain. For now. The price there is expected to rapidly increase to accommodate the loss of revenue from not having PPV's on the service for fighters like Dereck Chisora, and could end up costing another £10 to £15 a month.
I don't like taking the focus of articles on this site away from boxing in Asia but sometimes it needs to be said. Fight fans are set to have the piss taken out of them over the coming year or two.
For those who have defended PPV costs, and those who have supported the digital revolution of the sport, just remember this isn't cheap and the more services there is providing pay to view boxing contest the harder and harder it is to grow the sports fan base. Having lots of services offering the sport might seem good to begin with, but longer terms it will mean following the sport is incredibly expensive, and will price the sport out of the reach of many, many would be fans.
Fans who would, just 5 years ago, have seen a bout between Josh Taylor and Jose Carlos Ramirez shown on TV now need to go to a streaming service that few fans are aware of and sadly this is just the start.
Thankfully the bubble of new services will burst, one day, but by then it'll be hard to know just how few dedicated fans there will be following the sport in the UK and how few new fans it will be attracting hidden behind so many pay walls.
Thinking Out East
With this site being pretty successful so far we've decided to open up about our own views and start what could be considered effectively an editorial style opinion column dubbed "Thinking Out East" (T.O.E).