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Premier Boxing Champions does 3.13 million viewers on fast nationals

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The first event of a high-stakes gamble to bring boxing back to the general public, which include several time buys on NBC, CBS and Spike this year, was a success as boxing won the night on network TV in the key 18-49 demo, and did more viewers than most UFC events have done outside of football season.

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Al Haymon's attempt to revitalize boxing and make it more mainstream through higher-profile fights on network and major cable television outlets scored a win on first night ratings, doing a 2.53 rating and 3.13 million viewers, based on the fast nationals.

The fast national numbers were above most recent UFC events on FOX, which usually do about 2.5 million viewers, if the event isn't held during football season. The most recent show, headlined by Anthony Johnson's knockout win over Alexander Gustafsson, held on Jan. 24, did 2.82 million viewers based on the fast nationals and a 1.1 rating in the 18-49 demo, which ended up with the West Coast figured in being 3.05 million viewers and a 1.3 in the 18-49 demo.

Haymon's plans for 2015 included time buys on NBC, NBC Sports Network, CBS, CBS Sports Network and Spike for prime time events. The idea is to draw big enough ratings to garner a paying contract with the same networks and make boxing hotter with the general public.

This is a far higher profile version of what UFC did in 2005. Really, the first season of The Ultimate Fighter (TUF) was almost a time buy on Spike, but the ratings were so strong, and the ensuing pay-per-view shows with the new fans made from television increased dramatically, that it ended up worth it. They were able to get paid for future seasons and also made their money up with gigantic increases in every aspect of their business.

Saturday's show featured heavy commercial promotion for the Floyd Mayweather Jr. vs. Manny Pacquiao fight, so with the time buy and controlling much of the ad time, they are able to heavily market upcoming pay-per-view events to a far larger audience than can be reached via Showtime or HBO. 

The show, headlined by Keith Thurman's decision win over Robert Guerrero, was the first of 11 events scheduled on NBC this year, including four more in prime time.

The final numbers will increase because the fast nationals measure the 8:30 p.m. to 11 p.m. time slot across on the West Coast, where the show aired from 5:30 p.m. to 8 p.m.

The boxing show did a 1.0 in the target 18-49 demo, winning the night. In the key demo, it did about the same as UFC shows on FOX do in the fast nationals.

Based on this, it appears, as would be expected, the increase over UFC's overall audience is the older audience. Boxing traditionally skews older than MMA. UFC also spends considerably less to achieve those numbers.

With far more money devoted to production, not to mention more than $4 million in purses to just the four headliners (Thurman, Guerrero Adrien Broner and John Molina Jr.), this is a far higher-level gamble that the big one UFC took to build its brand in 2005.

In addition, with UFC, and with other MMA groups, the first major show with the hype of a debut usually draws bigger before it declines to a level that it settles into, usually at around the third or fourth show. UFC's debut on FOX on November 12, 2011, for the Cain Velasquez title loss to Junior dos Santos, did a 3.1 rating and 5.7 million viewers..

As a comparison, last week, NBC aired NHL hockey in the same time slot that did an 0.5 in the target 18-49 demo and 1.55 million viewers, so boxing doubled both figures. But the week before that, with Dateline, they did a similar 1.0 in the 18-49 demo, but drew 5.71 million viewers.

The show was the most-watched sporting event on television Saturday