Paramount is ending Showtime Boxing’s nearly four-decade run in the sport, the first move toward what could be an exit from combat sports altogether.
Paramount announced on Tuesday that it will shutter Showtime Sports at the end of this year. The move wasn’t shocking to boxing insiders and those who follow Paramount’s recent cost-cutting moves, including the potential sale of Bellator.
“As we evolve our strategy to more efficiently allocate resources and align our content offering across the business, we’ve made the difficult decision not to move forward with boxing and other content produced by the Showtime sports team,” Paramount said in a statement. “We want to express our deepest gratitude to our employees who have contributed to this award-winning sports programming over multiple decades.”
Showtime was left as the only traditional premium channel to broadcast boxing after HBO exited the sport in 2018. HBO had been a boxing mainstay for 43 years.
Showtime began broadcasting boxing — both on the network and later on pay-per-view — in 1986.
ESPN was the first outlet to report that Paramount was exiting the boxing business.
And Tuesday’s announcement will lead to the eliminating of 38 employees of Showtime Sports, not counting Bellator, which remains in limbo as sales talks continue.
“It is with profound disappointment that I shared this morning’s news that the company has decided to shut down Showtime Sports at the end of this year,” Showtime Sports President Stephen Espinoza said in an email to employees obtained by Front Office Sports. “We have helped illuminate the intersection of sports, culture and society, and we have boldly and unapologetically explored stories and themes that others couldn’t or wouldn’t. And we have done it all with the highest standards of care and quality.
“The company’s decision is not a reflection of the work we have done in recent years, nor of our long and proud history. It is not an indictment on the value we have delivered to this network for 37 years, nor, in particular, in 2023. Unfortunately, in a rapidly evolving media marketplace, the company has had to make difficult choices allocating resources, resetting priorities and reshaping its content offering.”
Paramount has discussed selling Bellator for several months, including with the Professional Fighters League, which valued Bellator at $500 million.
“These things take time, and until the time gets solidified, to me it’s just speculation,” Bellator President Scott Coker said earlier this month per MMA Fighting. “…So hopefully there’s some clarity soon and we’ll find out what’s going on.”
Paramount will also be shuttering Showtime’s Sports’ documentary team that secured Emmy wins for “McEnroe,” “Outcry” and four other documentaries, and Showtime Basketball — which produces the “All The Smoke” podcast featuring former NBA players Matt Barnes and Stephen Jackson.
It’s expected that the popular “All The Smoke” show will find a home with another platform.