By: Keith Nelson Jr (@JusAire)
Difficult takes a day, impossible takes a week and making televised boxing matches a hit may take a bit longer.
Roc Nation Sports aimed to “amp up the fan experience” for its first boxing event, Throne Boxing, by giving the fans more than a fight and according to Bobby Samuels of Opening Round, that included “a VIP package with the whole point to make fans feel special at a Jay Z event.” Special VIP check-in, Throne Boxing snapback, commemorative poster of the event and drink service as you gazed around at the constellation of celebrities in your proximity were central to this amped up fan experience. Roc Nation Sports understood the fan base in attendance were either die-hard boxing fans or casual viewers that came to see Fabolous perform dressed as a 70s mob boss (or trophy wife). To appease the ADHD-riddled millennial fan base, trivia about the fighters and performers were held on Twitter and shown on the big video screen.
This event was as much about promoting boxing as it was about promoting the Roc Nation brand and that became readily apparent to anyone in attendance instantly. Instead of the usual blue canvas with red/blue corners, the Throne Boxing ring featured the brand’s signature red-and-black on the mat and in the corners. Bending conventions to expand the brand, the Roc Nation motto. The power of the Roc Nation brand manifested outside of the ring more resoundingly than inside. For a boxing card that featured prospect Dusty Hernandez-Harrison fighting journeyman Tommy Rainone and Dustin Fleischer making his professional debut against a winless Frank Jordan, the audience was littered with high profile celebrities normally reserved for a higher caliber boxing event. Jake Gyllenhal joked around with Roc Nation signees Rihanna, Jay Z took in the pugilism with newest Roc Nation Sports signee, boxer Andre Ward, as New York Giants’ Victor Cruz looked on in amazement.
The stars shined bright but even a man with as much otherworldly influence as Shawn “Jay Z” Carter cannot pay for all the stars to align. The 10pm Throne Boxing telecast on Fox Sports 1 failed to crack the Top 100 rated cable shows on January 9th, registering either a .1 rating and attracting a meager 129,000 viewers. Yes, reruns of Friends, Seinfeld, Modern Family and Law & Order were watched by more people than Jay Z’s first televised boxing event. This stands as one of the worst debuts for a Fox Sports 1 sporting event ever and 27,000 viewers less than Oscar De La Hoya's Golden Boy Live debut in August 2013. Throne Boxing’s appeal to the youth appears to be fleeting as well. On Twitter, where 55 percent of active users are in Fox Sports 1’s desired age range of 18-49, Throne Boxing was a nonexistent conversation topic according to January 9th’s Twitter TV ratings.
In my previous article, I explained how the reaction to the first Throne Boxing event would determine how quickly Jay Z and Roc Nation Sports uses their marquee talent to increase interest. The social media campaign was tepid at best with Jay Z not sending out one tweet regarding Throne Boxing to his 3.07 million followers and instead leaving that job up to the Roc Nation official Twitter account, which only has 325,000 followers. In fact, besides a few press release statements, Jay Z has not promoted or spoke about Throne Boxing since the Fox Sports 1 deal was finalized in December 2014.
With only two more events left in Roc Nation Sports' deal with Fox Sports 1, the quality of performers, diversity of the promotional push and production value of the next Throne Boxing will determine if televised boxing events are a hobby or serious business venture to Jay Z.