BT buying ESPN UK

In a bit of a tidbit that may have some consequences for British boxing it appears that (subject to regulation) BT will be continuing its attack on Sky’s sporting dominance by buying ESPN’s UK channels.


The immediate consequence of this is that ESPN Classic is likely to disappear. I doubt there will be many tears shed over this; ESPN classic was not a channel you set your watch by and its content consisted of shows repeated ad-nauseum.

That said, a major part of its content consisted of boxing shows. To take today (25 February 2012) as an example one could watch Lewis vs Bruno, Cassius Clay/Muhammed Ali vs Liston 1 and two best of Sugar Ray Robinson highlights. In these days of youtube, torrents and google it’s a lot easier to watch such bouts compared to how it once was but for those times when you’re channel surfing it was always nice to have some classic boxing to watch.

What may be more important is what it represents. The main ESPN channel hasn’t really focused on boxing, limiting itself to the World Series of Boxing semi-pro league and instead aiming its combat sports coverage at MMA (or at least the UFC). But boxing remains one of the feathers in Sky’s sporting cap and with BT aggressively targeting Sky’s market it may wish to make a punt at getting more boxing on-screen.

I have mixed feelings on this. On one hand it’s always better to watch more boxing than less and likewise competition between TV networks will likely drive up the money promoters and boxers can demand. On the other hand boxing coverage is already fragmented in the UK. Sky continues to be one of the major forces but in recent years Frank Warren’s BoxNation and Channel 5 have moved in on the act, Eurosport continues to broadcast some shows (primarily European) and since being dropped by Sky Frank Maloney has put some of his domestic bouts on the little known Loaded TV.

Boxing being so fragmented makes it harder to follow (and if you have to subscribe to both BoxNation and ESPN more expensive) but it also makes bouts harder to happen. I’m pretty confident that one of the major reasons the bout between Tyson Fury and David Price couldn’t be made was disputes as to how it fitted in Channel 5 (who have invested a lot in Fury) and BoxNation’s (who have invested in Price) schedules and plans.

So as things stand, little to fear… but perhaps something to keep an eye on.


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