NBC Charts Its Own Course for Premier Boxing Championship Series

NBC Sports Group is putting big-name talent in front of the camera for its new Premiere Boxing Champions series, so it’s no surprise that the Peacock is stacking the deck behind the camera as well. In addition to tapping seven-time Emmy winner Al Michaels and Boxing Hall of Famer Sugar Ray Leonard as lead broadcast team, NBC has pledged to deliver A-game–level production value for its PBC on NBC telecasts on par with the network’s highest-profile sports properties.

PBC on NBC lead analyst Sugar Ray Leonard (center) with the fighters involved in the series’ first two events at an NBC media event in New York on Wednesday.

PBC on NBC lead analyst Sugar Ray Leonard (center) with the fighters involved in the series’ first two events at an NBC media event in New York on Wednesday.

“We will present the PBC on NBC with the same high production value that viewers saw this past weekend led by [NBC Sports/NBCSN Executive Producer] Sam Flood on our NFL Playoffs and that we show every [two years with] the Olympics on NBC,” said Jon Miller, president, programming, NBC Sports/NBCSN, at a media event on Wednesday.

NBC Goes for Best in Class
NBC’s multi-year PBC deal with Haymon Boxing covers 20 live events on NBC and NBCSN in 2015, totaling more than 50 total hours of PBC coverage. The slate comprises five Saturday-primetime and six Saturday-afternoon fights on NBC (all featuring pre- and post-fight programming on NBCSN) and nine Saturday-primetime fights on NBCSN. NBC Sports Group will also provide a Spanish-language live audio (SAP) feed as well as encore presentations on NBC Universo, a new Latino-focused cable channel set to launch on Feb. 1.

PBC on NBC premieres on March 7 — a co-main event of Keith Thurman-Robert Guerrero and Adrien Broner-John Molina Jr. fights — followed by an April 11 card featuring Danny Garcia and Lamont Peterson.

“Everything we are doing on this is best in class, I can promise you that,” Flood said. “If you look at the boxers and the fact that we have Al Michaels, it tells you these are big events. And just wait until we [reveal] the rest of the announce team. It’s going to be a unique way to tell the story of the sport. We will do what we do best, which is tell stories and make people care about the athletes.”

Leading the production effort behind the scenes will be NBC Sports Coordinating Producer, Boxing, David Gibson and director Matthew Celli, along with Coordinating Director, NBC Olympics, Mike Sheehan.

An Epic Soundtrack Awaits
In an effort to lend an epic feel to boxing’s grand return to primetime on a broadcast network (NBC’s latest primetime fight was Larry Holmes’s unanimous decision over Carl “The Truth” Williams for the IBF Heavyweight Title on May 20, 1985), NBC has enlisted the services of Academy Award-winning composer Hans Zimmer, who will provide the score of NBC’s PBC coverage.

“You can hear from the score that the tone is going to be big-time,” said Flood, “just like we do for Sunday Night Football with [a] John Williams [score].”

Tech To Take Fans Inside the Ring
Flood also acknowledged that NBC has spent six months testing new technologies and production elements in an effort to grow the sport and make it more exciting for the average and die-hard viewer alike.

“At the core, this is about telling the story. That is what we do and is our number-one objective,” he says. “That said, we will try some new tricks, particularly in replay, that we think can help cover this sport, as well as some new scoring elements. All that will come out over time.”

Although NBC was not ready to share specifics, NBC Sports technology consultant Anthony Bailey did acknowledge that the network is currently testing a variety of technologies (some in conjunction with Duke University and the University of New Mexico) ranging from new scoring measures to virtual graphics and visualization elements to new cameras that help bring fans inside the ring.

“It’s going to be differentiated from everything you have ever seen before in boxing [coverage],” said Bailey. “One of the big keys we are working on now with Haymon Boxing is to help get you inside the ring. So we have a lot of things we are just in the middle of testing and working on, including being able to score fights in a new and innovative way … and cameras that will actually take you into the ring and allow you to view it from any angle you want.”

Thinking Outside the Box (and the Big Screen)
PBC coverage will not be limited solely to the linear telecast. All PBC on NBC fights will be streamed live on the NBC Sports Live Extra authenticated service. The NBC production team will look to leverage commercial breaks between rounds to push scoring data, virtual elements, and multi-angle coverage to the Live Extra experience.

“Right now, we are worried about getting the data, and then we have a lot of ideas about how to visualize it — both on the live [linear] side and on the digital side,” Bailey explained. “I think you will see a lot of that on the digital side. Unlike HBO and Showtime, we have to go to commercial, so we don’t have that minute between rounds to do much. So we will be pushing all that out to the second screen. Maybe not for the first few fights, though; we need to walk before we run.”