Fury deal with Top Rank and Queensberry provides leverage, but few guarantees for ESPN

Tyson Fury’s co-promotional deal with Top Rank and Queensberry Promotions cannot guarantee all his next five fights appear on ESPN in the US, SportBusiness understands.

Fury’s new five-fight deal with US promotion Top Rank and UK promotion Queensberry means that – at least by default – his UK broadcast rights will be held by pay-television broadcaster BT Sport, while his US broadcast rights to his fights will be held by pay-television broadcaster ESPN.

Crucially, it will also provide him and his promoters with much-needed leverage when negotiating deals to fight current heavyweight champions Anthony Joshua and Deontay Wilder. But should either bout be agreed, the allocation of the media rights could change.

Wilder is managed by Al Haymon, who presides over the Premier Boxing Champions series of events. PBC has US broadcast deals with pay-television broadcaster Showtime and media group Fox. It also has an exclusive deal in the UK with commercial broadcaster ITV.

Joshua is promoted by Matchroom Boxing, which has an exclusive deal in the UK with pay-television broadcaster Sky. His US broadcast rights are sold on a fight-by-fight basis, despite Matchroom having a US joint-venture with streaming platform DAZN – Matchroom USA – which also includes rights to events promoted by Matchroom’s UK arm.

Having a deal in the US with ESPN – which will be sure to bid strongly for the rights to any fight against Wilder or Joshua – will boost the amount of money Fury can bring to the negotiating table, potentially increasing his percentage of the fight’s total earnings across media rights and/or pay-per-view.

If two boxers are under contract with different promotions, and each of those promotions has its own exclusive media rights deal with different broadcasters in the same market, the broadcaster of any bout between those two boxers would be decided either by a broadcast rights auction or a pre-agreed arrangement.

In a pre-agreed arrangement, one or more broadcasters would be permitted to show the fight as a result of private negotiations.

However, Wilder is under contract with PBC, which has deals with Fox and Showtime. It would mean that should Wilder agree to fight Fury, three US broadcasters would have a legitimate claim to show the fight. It is highly likely that rights to any such bout would go to auction.

As the vast majority of media rights deals in boxing are ‘output deals’ – where broadcasters pay fees on a per-event basis, with the amount paid depending on the quality of each event – a broadcaster under contract with a promotion that misses out on showing the fight would not pay a rights fee.

Fury’s deal with Top Rank and Queensberry has been reported as being worth £80m in the UK press. In reality, the amount Fury earns will fluctuate based on the quality of his opponents and the amount that broadcasters are willing to pay for rights to his biggest fights.