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Why Jake Paul fights provide a 'tremendous opportunity' for Showtime Networks

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Stephen Espinoza, President of Sports and Event Programming at Showtime Networks, preview Sunday's fight between Jake Paul and Tyron Woodley and where things are headed for sports streaming.

Video Transcript

- We want to switch gears and talk about sports because there's a big fight happening on Sunday. Lots of hype ahead of this. YouTube star Jake Paul, he's continuing his push into professional boxing. And he's going to go head to head with former UFC Welterweight Champion Tyron Woodley. The fight is set to air on Showtime pay per view. So we want to bring in Devin Espinosa. He is the president of sports and event programming at Showtime. And Stephen, it's great to have you. There certainly was a lot of attention leading up to this fight. I guess, what can we expect to see from this high profile match-up on Sunday?

STEPHEN ESPINOZA: Well, to tell you the truth, we don't know exactly what to expect. Jake is relatively young in his boxing career. He has a tremendous fanbase. If you aggregate all his social media accounts, over 60 million people follow him on a regular basis. And he's brought that audience into boxing. So this is probably the most highly anticipated, highly visible fourth pro fight of any pro fighter [AUDIO OUT]. He's just four fights in. And he's still developing his skills. He's got a very tough opponent in a long-time elite combat sports veteran across the ring. And I think this is just the start of a really interesting journey for Jake Paul.

- If I get the order of this wrong, correct me. But Showtime, part of Viacom CBS-- And I noticed something because another property there is Pluto TV. And I get a free nibble of Showtime via Pluto. So where I'm going with this is pay per view has been a part of all of our lives for decades, especially in traditional cable. As we see this explosion of streaming, are we going to see a consolidation because it seems as if it's almost the paradox of choice. Love to pay Showtime to watch something like this. But at what point do we see the consolidation if it's coming?

STEPHEN ESPINOZA: Look, it's the same across media as all other industries. You have to prove your value to the consumer. And premium television is no exception. Whether you're a streaming service, or you're Paramount Plus, or Showtime, you've got to communicate the value that you're bringing. And as for the company as a whole for Viacom CBS, there's a tiered approach. Everything from, as you say, the free-to-watch Pluto TV which is entirely free all the way through CBS, through cable, a premium subscription and streaming in Showtime and Paramount Plus. So whichever way the consumer wants to watch it, whether it's free streaming, occasional pay per views, or you pay PVOD subscription, we want to be there and make it available.

- Stephen, a big part of this fight coming up on Sunday is incorporating gambling into the broadcast. You have a partnership here, a gambling partnership with Barstool Sportsbook. I guess talk to us just about the significance of this and how you hope this kind of boosts fan engagement, I would guess, during the fight.

STEPHEN ESPINOZA: Well, we always like to talk about a win-win proposition when we talk about sponsorships or bringing in strategic partners. This truly is that. Barstool Sports comes to the table with their Barstool Sportsbook product, which is an official sponsor of the event. They are being integrated into the event. But selfishly from our side, not only do we get a major sponsor for the event, we also get access to that huge Barstool audience that does $1.5 billion video views a month on social media channels. They have a Podcast Network, about seven million listeners per month across all the different platforms. So this isn't just someone who is putting their name on the mat and trying to get some publicity off the fight. This is someone who is being integrated into the telecast. They're going to provide some betting advice, some betting tips. And they're also bringing that very loyal, that sort of really passionate Barstool Sports audience to the event as well.

- You know, it's the golden goose of media. And it's here. You're doing it because you've got user engagement in real time, whether they're gaming or gambling as they watch the sporting event. How do you monetize that going forward, though. Can you monetize it in real time as it's happening it? Or do you do it with that audience you just shared with us you're going to be exposed to.

STEPHEN ESPINOZA: Well, I think this is a rapidly developing area. I think the Holy Grail for a lot of media companies has been, is there a way to really seamlessly integrate the betting with the viewing experience in a very unified way? That's probably a little ways off. But in the meantime, we can do these things that bring the two audiences together in a very meaningful way.

- So when we talk about the numbers here going back to just YouTube Jake Paul participating in this fight-- and I know you're saying you don't really know what to expect. But from the fact that he has participated in, the couple that he has done over the last several months, I guess, have you been able to pull in viewers that maybe wouldn't have viewed a fight like this before?

STEPHEN ESPINOZA: Absolutely. This is actually our second fight with one of the Paul brothers. There was an exhibition match back in June between Floyd Mayweather and Jake's brother, Logan. Now, that was an exhibition match. But this is an actual sanctioned professional fight. So there are differences. But what we saw in that event and what we're seeing already in the lead-up to Jake's event is that they are bringing new audiences, new demos, that audience, many of whom have never paid attention to any combat sports event of any type. And they're bringing those not only to the pay per view, but they're bringing it to Showtime Boxing and to by extension Showtime and Viacom CBS.

When we use anecdotally, we go back to that Floyd Mayweather fight with Logan Paul, Floyd Mayweather is one of the best-known, most famous combat sports stars in history. And yet there was a lot of that audience that came to it thinking, who is this guy that Logan Paul is fighting because they are distinct audiences. We've got Jake Paul who does on YouTube alone about seven billion video views a month. That's a very loyal audience. And most of those people do not follow combat sports. So it's a tremendous opportunity for us as the network and for the sport of boxing overall.

- Stephen Espinoza, we have to leave it there. But I think a lot of people are looking forward to the fight in just a couple of days on Sunday. President of sports and event programming at Showtime. Thanks so much for taking the time to join us.