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De La Hoya Bout Could Set a PPV Record

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By R. Thomas Umstead -- Multichannel News, 2/26/2007

In this story:

HBO thinks its May 5 Oscar De La Hoya-Floyd Mayweather pay-per-view event could surpass 1 million buys and might even knock out the 2002 Mike Tyson-Lennox Lewis fight as the highest-grossing pay TV event ever.

But some PPV industry executives such as In Demand president Rob Jacobson aren’t sure that De La Hoya and Mayweather — even while arguably the two most popular fighters in the sport now — can capture the public’s attention the way the controversial Tyson and dominant heavyweight champion Lewis did five years ago. That fight raked in $106 million in pay-per-view revenue, the record to date.

Top PPV Events
(Ranked by gross revenue)
RankEventDateTotal Buys (Mil.)Gross Rev. (Mil.)
2Holyfield-Tyson II6/28/19971.99100.2
3Holyfield-Tyson I11/9/19961.5977.9
5Trinidad-De La Hoya9/18/19991.2564.0
Source: Kagan Research Associates


The pre-fight promotional noise generated by HBO and fight promoter Golden Boy Promotions certainly might set a record.

Golden Boy officials said the fight will generate some $70 million worth of marketing exposure — dwarfing the $20 million in support Lewis-Tyson co-promoters HBO and Showtime Event Television doled out for that event.

When all pay-per-view receipts are counted, HBO Sports president Ross Greenburg said, the event should be the second non-heavyweight fight to surpass 1 million buys. The first million-buy fight was the 1999 De La Hoya-Felix Trinidad bout, at 1.25 million buys. Whether it beats Lewis-Tyson remains to be seen.

The market has changed somewhat in six years. According to analyst Bruce Leichtman, a former cable marketer, the fight will be available to at least 10 million more households than Lewis-Tyson, which reached 50 million homes via cable and satellite.

“The one thing that’s different is that the base is bigger, which might make the difference for the fight,” Leichtman, of Leichtman Research Group, said.

But potential buyers have a number of other home-entertainment options — including broadband — that weren’t around in 2002.

The $54.95 suggested retail price for the fight — matched only by Lewis-Tyson — could also limit the universe of potential fight buyers.

“This fight will give us an indication as to how high the PPV [buy] cap is,” Greenburg said.

Time Warner Cable New York City director of marketing and video-on-demand services Betty Campbell-Adams said the environment surrounding PPV fights has changed dramatically since Tyson-Lewis. “There are more PPV events in the marketplace, as well as other options for entertainment that viewers enjoy today that could affect the fight,” she said.

Jacobson also said the fight, while highly anticipated by fight fans, might not draw non-casual fans the way Lewis-Tyson did.

“Tyson-Lewis captured the imagination of a lot of people because it had been so many years in the making,” Jacobson said. “If you take that one out, however, I certainly think we could see [De La Hoya-Mayweather] approach some records. We’re very optimistic.”

Veteran boxing writer and WFAN New York sports radio host Tony Paige said the aggressive promotional push could help the fight set records.

“I think it will make the most money of any fight in the history of boxing,” Paige said. “When they get the spin going, it will build the fire for the event.”

HBO will launch a four-part reality series in April dubbed De La Hoya-Mayweather 24/7 that will focus on the two fighters’ training camps.

Golden Boy Promotions said the fight will get marketing exposure and hundreds of millions of household impressions via deals with sponsors, such as liquor company Tequila Cazadores.


Greenburg said HBO will offer about five or six PPV boxing events this year, including De La Hoya-Mayweather and its March 17 Marco Antonio Barrera vs. Juan Manuel Marquez junior lightweight fight. That’s down from 11 pay-per-view boxing events last year that generated $177 million in revenue.

The HBO executive said the proliferation of Ultimate Fighting Championship and other mixed martial arts events wasn’t a major factor in HBO’s reducing its PPV boxing dates. “The UFC is here to stay,” he added. “It’s got a great fan base. But I don’t think its impacting the pay-per-view boxing market at all.”

Greenburg also said HBO is talking with the UFC about distributing some live events. “We’re still measuring it, looking at it and getting comfortable with the UFC,” he said.

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