Appeal to 9th Circuit for plaintiffs that felt duped from Pac-May fight

September 20, 2017

Late last month, the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California dismissed the class action lawsuit by plaintiffs claiming that they were duped by the Manny Pacquiao-Floyd Mayweather fight in May 2015 due to the fact Pacquiao did not disclose a previous shoulder injury.

Despite the order dismissing the case, the plaintiffs have filed an appeal to the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals.  But first, let’s look at the facts and the district court opinion.

Order Dismissing Pacquiao-Mayweather Boxing Match PPV Litigation by JASONCRUZ206 on Scribd

As we know, Manny Pacquiao faced Floyd Mayweather at the MGM Grand Arena in Las Vegas, Nevada.  Mayweather won via unanimous decision.  After the fight, Pacquiao indicated that he had an injury.  However, the facts would suggest that this was never disclosed prior to the fight.  In fact, on his pre-fight questionnaire, he did not indicate an issue with his shoulder.

Many believed that the injured shoulder was a factor in the outcome of the fight.  Those that paid for the fight on PPV ($100), bought a seat at the venue or watched on closed circuit or in a movie theatre were angered that they did not see the best Pacquiao and/or the injury was not disclosed.  Obviously, something like this has a trickle-down impact to the consumer but also to those that placed money on the fight.

Lawsuits were filed as a result and were subsequently consolidated to this court.  Plaintiffs allege that “Defendants were motivated by huge profits” to continue with the fight despite the alleged injury.  They claim that they affirmatively concealed the injury in promotion of the fight.

Attorneys for Pacquiao, Mayweather, Top Rank, Mayweather Promotions, and its related entitites filed a Motion to Dismiss the lawsuits.  On August 25th, the district court agreed with the defendants that this lawsuit should be dismissed.

The opinion emphasized that the legal system is not the proper place for unhappy fans to vent their anger over a result of a sporting event.  The court made a determination as to whether to determine the complaints per a “license approach “to assess the rights of fans that purchase a ticket to a sporting event.  Under this approach, purchasers are entitled to “nothing more than a revocable license” regardless of what transpires at the event.  However, the court noted that this specific issue was a novel occurrence and it had to determine whether it should apply this standard.

The court did cite to a ticketholder/PPV purchaser case from 2000 where Mike Tyson was sued after a fight between Tyson and Evander Holyfield.  You may recall that this was the bout where Tyson infamously bit Holyfield’s ear.  Plaintiffs in that case claimed that Tyson’s plan was to get disqualified if he could not win and this was a “premediated plan” to end the fight.  In that case, the plaintiffs’ lawsuit was dismissed and the appeal upheld the dismissal rationalizing that fans got what they paid for.

In addition to the “license approach,” the opinion discusses a set of cases which do not use the theory.  Instead, this line of cases have had plaintiffs assert their legal rights when sports teams allegedly lie to promote ticket sales.  Two lawsuits involve professional teams that were moving but did not tell their fan base and one case in which a team stated it was financially able to finish a hockey season but folded 13 games into the season.

So, the court determined which of these approaches it should take.  Either the “License approach” cases which resulted in no legally cognizable injury or the lawsuits against sports teams which reflects a legally cognizable injury.

The court found the “License approach” was the correct application since the alleged omissions and misrepresentations were based on athletic competition (i.e, concealing Pacquiao’s injury).

From the opinion:

The Court holds that a misrepresentation or omission implicates the core of athletic competition, and therefore does not constitute a cognizable injury to a legally protected interest under the license approach, if it is related to: (A) competitive strategy, or (B) the quality or outcome of competitive performance.

It’s also noteworthy that the court argues public policy as to why it ruled against the Plaintiffs here:

Thus, allowing sports fans to sue over the vicissitudes of competitive sports could destroy the
very thing that makes sports fandom so special. A holding in favor of Plaintiffs in this case could be construed to require near total transparency in sports, whereby any inflated, unreliable, or cryptic prevent statements would beget lawsuits. Gone would be the days of headstrong athletes declaring their complete readiness to destroy their opponents. Athletes would never again publicly predict that they will prevail, or even conclude that an event will be exciting. Sports teams and athletes might even be required to disclose the weak spots in their game plans or preparations before every event for all to see (including their opponents).

The judicial opinion is highlighted by a cite to a Joe Rogan podcast related to the uncertainty of sports.  The court commented that the “unpredictability and uncertainty” of competitive sports is important to it.  The point is that the unexpected nature of sport is inherent in sport and expected by fans.

Payout Perspective:

At first read, you wonder why Plaintiffs have decided to appeal this case to the 9th Circuit.  There’s a lot of money that goes into an appeal and the success rate seems in doubt.  However, if you read the opinion closely, you can tell that the district court is making up their own law as they go.  Perhaps that’s a little strong, but they are definitely applying a legal standard they feel is right for this circumstance.  While the “license approach” has been used to decide cases in disgruntled fan lawsuits in the past, there is no real precedent setting case (as the court notes in the opinion).  Thus there’s a line of cases which could be helpful to Plaintiffs but is not applied.  Moreover, the public policy as argued by the Court gives us the old “slippery slope” argument which I personally take offense.  Even if you think that this is ridiculous to follower, there is a telling piece of law here that may be more important than whether someone gets their $100 back.

 

Byrd still set for UFC 216

September 18, 2017

Coming off of a controversial scorecard in the main event of the GGG-Canelo Alvarez fight on Saturday, NAC head Bob Bennett has stated he has yet to make a decision as to if she will be removed from the upcoming UFC 216 card in Vegas October 7th.

Byrd scored the big fight in Vegas 118-110 for Canelo Alvarez, while Judge Dave Moretti had it 115-113 for GGG and judge Don Trella scored it a 114-144 draw.

Byrd’s lopsided scores which gave Canelo 10 rounds to GGG’s 2 is contrasted with the overarching popular belief that GGG was the aggressor in most rounds and won more than 2 rounds in the fight.

In addition to boxing, Byrd has judged UFC cards in the past.

There were conflicting reports as to whether or not Byrd had been relieved of her anticipated duties for the UFC event but Bennett indicated to MMA Fighting that she was not taken off the card.

Payout Perspective:

Adelaide Byrd received over 1 million google searches on Saturday night due to her scorecard.  In an otherwise “Fight of the Year” candidate, her score which did not compare with the other two scorecards which reflected a close, competitive fight was the hot button issue.  Judging in combat sports can be one of the more controversial parts of this sports and it highlights the subjective nature of being a judge.  Obviously, any fight she will judge in the near future will be scrutinized more than others.

Rungvisai-Chocolatito draw 796,000 on HBO

September 15, 2017

HBO Boxing After Dark this past Saturday drew 796,000 viewers for the main event featuring the rematch of Sor Rungvisai and Roman Chocolatito Gonzalez.

The event featured 3 fights on the telecast and ran opposite UFC 215 this past Saturday.  The event was dubbed, “Superfly,” since it featured super flyweights on Saturday event.

The main event pitted the rematch in which Rungvisai knocked out Chocolatito in the fourth round of their super flyweight championship.  The peak occurred during their fight and scored 835,000 viewers.

The co-main event of the evening featured Japan’s Naoya Inoue defeating Antonio Nieves.  Inoue, perhaps the next challenger to Rungvisai, defeated Nieves after the banker featured in the Wall Street Journal the same day, did not come out for round 7.  The event drew 735,000 viewers and peaked at 770,000.

In the first fight of the evening, Juan Francisco Estrada defeated Carlos Cuardras.  The fight drew 608,000 viewers with a peak of 714,000 viewers.

Payout Perspective:

Very good ratings for the main event considering that this telecast focused on fights in some of the smallest weight divisions in boxing.  Many people had heard or saw the first fight between Rungvisai and Chocolatito and wanted to see they could match the action of their first fight.  It did not go to a decision but fans should have been impressed with Rungvisai’s stoppage of Gonzalez.

Canelo-GGG PPV will cost you $79.99

September 15, 2017

For those getting ready to watch GGG versus Canelo Alvarez this Saturday, you will have to pay a premium if ordering on PPV as the suggested retail price point will be $79.99 HD.

The premium price is more than the usual $64.95-$69.99 PPV boxing event.  Coming off of last month’s Conor McGregor-Floyd Mayweather fight, which cost $99.95, the question of whether that fight would impact this fight was a relevant question.

Certainly, “Supremacy,” as the fight is billed, is a fight that diehard boxing fans have been waiting for, but will casuals dip into their pocketbooks less than a month later to pay another $80 for a PPV?

The PPV buys for The Money Fight have not been made official but the conclusion is that despite the $100 price point, it drew between 4 and 5 million buys.  We aren’t looking at that buy rate for this event, but this has been a fight in the making with two of the biggest-named boxers in the sport today.

Last spring, Canelo’s last PPV appearance against Julio Cesar Chavez, Jr. drew 1 million PPV buys.

It would not be out of the realm of possibility for this fight to do the same due to the budding star that is Canelo, the strong Mexican boxing fan base and GGG.  The only concern would be the casual combat sports fan that may have bought The Money Fight and cannot think about paying more for this fight.

Of course, this excess spending on PPVs may have hurt UFC 215, which was sandwiched between the two.  Even with the UFC’s normal PPV price of $59.99, some fans may have sat last week out in order to watch the two boxing events.

Mayweather-McGregor replay on Showtime draws 549,000

September 6, 2017

The replay of The Money Fight on Showtime this past Saturday drew 549,000 viewers per Nielsen via ShowBuzz Daily.  In addition, an epilogue of All Access which followed immediately after drew 291,000 viewers.

The Conor McGregor-Floyd Mayweather fight drew 549,000 Showtime subscribers and 0.15 in the A18-49 demo for the 42 minutes it aired on the network starting at 9:23pm ET.  It was a stand-alone presentation as it was not coupled with any live fights.

Previous PPV replays of note:

Mayweather-Pacquiao:  1.18M on HBO (coupled with Canelo-Kirkland)

Canelo-Chavez, Jr.:  769,000 on HBO

Canelo-Smith:  459,000 on HBO

Canelo-Khan:  767,000 on HBO

Canelo-Cotto:  901,000 on HBO

Mayweather-Berto:  587,000 on Showtime

Payout Perspective:

Maybe everyone saw the fight the previous Saturday or the opening weekend of college football detracted from the viewership.  The Labor Day Weekend likely took away some of the network subscribers from the ratings.  In comparison, the Mayweather-Pacquiao replay drew almost double the viewership although it was coupled with the live event of Canelo-Kirkland.  You might recall that event drew the best boxing ratings on HBO since 2006.

GGG-Alvarez will be in theaters nationwide

September 5, 2017

ESPN reports that the September 16th fight between GGG and Canelo Alvarez will be shown in approximately 400 movie theatres in conjunction with Fathom Events.

The event is being priced at $21 per ticket which is about half the amount that The Money Fight retailed for in theatres last month.  The event will show the entire PPV card which starts at 5pm PT and will run approximately 4 hours.  The event will take place at the T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas.

Payout Perspective:

As seems to be the custom with big combat sports events, promotions attempt to capitalize on demand by having the event shown in theatres which may mitigate the casual fans not wanting to spend $60 on the PPV but wanting to watch the fights.  While this fight may not have the same demand as last month’s Mayweather-McGregor fight, it should prove to be much more entertaining.

Payout Perspective: The Money Fight

September 4, 2017

Welcome to a special edition of Payout Perspective.  Almost a week later, but we are still talking about The Money Fight that took place August 26th at the T-Mobile Arena.

Mayweather stops McGregor in 10

Floyd Mayweather waited it out.  As most believed, he tested out Conor McGregor for the first couple around before going on the offensive.  Out of the ordinary for the counterpuncher, but Mayweather pressed McGregor and it was clear that the UFC champ was tiring.  Despite not being brought to the canvas, the fight was stopped.  A good call despite McGregor’s post-interview protesting.

Mayweather gets his 50th win against McGregor who takes his first loss of his career.  Of course, it was just McGregor’s first fight.

We should see McGregor back in the Octagon but it’s clear that Mayweather may want to dabble in boxing again.  He wasn’t the worst in there but boxing in MMA is different than boxing.

Attendance and Gate

The fight was not a sellout which was not a surprise leading into the fight.  The astronomical price to see the event without much of an undercard likely was the primary reason for a non-sell out.  Due to the prior disappointment of Mayweather-Pacquiao, the event likely scared the big spenders away.

Payouts

The official payouts from the event had Mayweather earning $100 million not including PPV upside and McGregor getting $30 million.

Attendance and gate

The only thing that may have been a disappointment was the attendance for the event at the T-Mobile Arena. The event drew 14,623 although the gate was yet to be officially announced.  It was thought that due to the high prices the event would have drawn over the $72 million record for May-Pac.  With capacity at 20,000, the event fell way short of capacity but the big financial boon was the $99.95 price tag for the PPVs.

Promotion of the Fight

The 4-city world tour this past July introduced us to The Money Fight.  Maybe the Toronto tour stop was the best and the New York/Brooklyn stop was the worst.  Whatever you thought of it, it was the beginning of a monthlong run-up to the fight.

There were tons of promotion around the event including Showtime All Access and UFC’s Embedded Episodes.  At times, it appeared that each show favored its own boxer.  As always, this shoulder programming always interests me.

Saturday Night Live did a skit during its prime time Weekend Update the week before the fight.  The skit featured someone pretending to be Conor McGregor.  It was a bad impression.

Television Ratings

The Prelims to Mayweather-McGregor on Fox peaked at 3.1 million viewers and averaged 2,568,000 viewers.   It drew an outstanding 1,156,000 viewers in the A18-49 demo.

Other associated ratings:

  • Mayweather-McGregor Prefight Show 1,463,000
  • Mayweather-McGregor Postfight Show 368,000
  • Mayweather-McGregor Weigh-In 287,000
  • PBC on FS1 drew 269,000 viewers on Friday night.

PPV estimates

Dana White proclaimed that the event drew 6.5 million buys.  Showtime stated that the fight sold between 4 and 5 million buys.  Other reports stated that the initial estimates did not break the 4.6 million record of Mayweather-Pacquiao.  ESPN noted that an estimated 50 million people saw the event.

The PPV estimates will not come in until this week but Showtime’s Stephen Espinoza claims it was a “massive financial success.”  This seems like an understatement based on the numbers.

Espinoza noted in a New York Times article that 10 to 12 percent of the total buys were through a digital service.  We note the tech difficulties those users had below.

Technical Difficulties

Due to the high demand, people reported issues with their streaming of the event.  The Showtime App, UFC.tv and Fight Pass were the main culprits with issues although other ways to purchase the PPV had problems.

Showtime issued a “limited number” of refunds.  Espinoza seemed to minimize the affect the technical difficulties had claiming that they were “definitely exaggerated.”  However, the first lawsuit filed over not being able to watch the event was filed in Oregon over futile attempts to watch the vent on the Showtime App.

The fight was delayed 20 minutes to accommodate for the technical difficulties but those paying $99.95 shut out of the telecast.

The UFC did not immediately state they would issue refunds, but upon meeting with its vendor, noted that it would issue refunds for those that had issues on the UFC.tv/Fight Pass app.

The Las Vegas Review-Journal noted that the PPV issues “appeared to come from a surge of late purchase and connectivity issues.”

Related?  The UFC announced less than a week later that FITE.TV would become the UFC’s new online streaming partner.  No official word, if NeuLion is out altogether with the UFC.

Sponsors

Corona was the main sponsor for The Money Fight.  Notably, this was not rolled out until a week or so prior to the fight.  One would have thought that the sponsorship for the event would have been announced much sooner.  In addition, Body Armor was very visible during the event as “towels and stools in the fighters’ corners had the Body Armor logo on it.  Also, fighters took their hydration from Body Armor bottles.  Also, Wish Shopping made a big splash with signage on the mats and on the weigh-in scale.

McGregor wore irish flag-inspired Beats By Dre headphones for the weigh-ins.  The company also released an ad starring McGregor on August 23rd.  McGregor signed a sponsor deal with Online betting site, Betsafe.

Odds and Ends

There were tons of newsy items coming out of this event and we couldn’t get them all in.  I wrote a preview on many of the issues including the commission agreeing to the glove change and Zuffa signing on as a co-promoter here.

While the PPV estimates may break records, Showtime had to deal with pirates using Periscope.  While Showtime obtained an injunction to stop some sites, it could not stop private users.  A tech security company claimed that almost 3 million viewers watched pirated streams.

Conor McGregor’s flip up sunglasses during the promotion of this fight were reminiscent of Dwayne Wayne’s.

Conor McGregor announced the roll-out of his first foray into the whisky business:

Floyd Mayweather introduced TMT-themed apparel for this event including one with the Irish Flag colors on a TMT shirt. He also had an assortment of mouthguards.  Iceberg Guards is selling a replica guard of the one he wore during The Money Fight for $295.00.

Gervonta Davis drew 100,000 google searches on Fight Night mainly due to his headgear coming out during the walkout.  Davis won, but drew the ire of some fans since he didn’t make weight.

While the Mayweather/McGregor announcement overshadowed the rematch between Andre Ward and Sergey Kovalev this past June, Top Rank attempted to take advantage of the assembled media in Vegas by announcing a deal with ESPN that would include providing the company with the Top Rank fight library for an upcoming Disney-OTT platform.

ESPN showed old Mayweather fights where analysts talked about how he was such a pro and a likeable guy.  How times have changed.  The UFC also aired his fight with Maidana on UFC online to help promote the fight.

Although there was much publicity for this fight, the Miguel Cotto fight in Carson, California on the same night drew 730,000 viewers on HBO which is very good considering it was overshadowed by The Money Fight.

Mayweather and McGregor did the standard media appearances including on Jimmy Kimmel.

There were over 10 million google searches for the “Mayweather vs. McGregor Fight,” and 10 million google searches for “Mayweather.”

Conclusion

Usually we predict a buy rate, but with the news that it’s likely between 4 and 5 million PPV buys, we don’t have to conclude that this fight was a success.  The only question will be whether the buys passed the 4.6 million PPV record.  Whether or not it did, this fight was impressive in how it was marketed and promoted.  The UFC helped its brand with its involvement in the event and Mayweather made money as he always seems to do.  Will we see more crossover fights in the future?  Only if it is big names and promises to bring in big numbers.

Boxer Austin Trout files lawsuit against WBO citing Ali Act violations

September 1, 2017

Boxer Austin Trout has filed a lawsuit against the World Boxing Organization citing violations of the Muhammad Ali Boxing Reform Act.  It is the first lawsuit citing the Ali Act in several years.

The case originally was filed in the federal district court of New Mexico as that is where Trout resides.  The original complaint, filed in February 2016, did not include a claim under the Ali Act, instead includes allegations of Unfair Trade Practices pursuant to the local rules in the state of New Mexico, Fraud and request for Injunctive Relief.  Trout’s essential claim was that he was a highly ranked boxer that should have received a title shot but he was dropped in the rankings for what appears to be no apparent reason.  A boxer that was previously ranked below him was given a title shot.  According to Trout, it was because the promoter gave financial incentive to the WBO.  He also claims that the WBO “solicited and accepted financial remuneration from promoters and/or managers to fix ratings.”  Upon request of the reason why Trout fell in the rankings, he was not provided a response.

Attached to their original complaint was a “Show Cause” letter from the WBO to then Junior Middleweight Champion Demetrius Andrade, why the title should not be vacated due to lack of activity.  Andrade vacated the title and Trout believed that he was due a shot at the vacant belt since he was highly ranked.  However, he was not given the shot and, in fact, dropped from the rankings.  Attached in the documents is correspondence inquiring the reasons for his disappearance in the rankings.

Original Complaint by JASONCRUZ206 on Scribd

The WBO moved the case to Puerto Rico and attempted to dismiss the lawsuit. The lawsuit was moved to the federal district of Puerto Rico where Trout’s lawyers amended the case to include the Ali Act violation, breach of contract and fraud. They claim the requisite statutory damages and attorney fees and costs which would total $40 million.

Amended Complaint by JASONCRUZ206 on Scribd

Payout Perspective:

This will be an interesting test of the Ali Act as there has not been a lawsuit in some time where this has been claimed.  I took a look at this a couple years ago.  For those that want to see MMA expand to the Ali Act, we shall see how this plays out.  The claim relates to the lack of a rankings system to justify championship fights.  Certainly, the UFC has not followed its own rankings and current fighters could make such a grievance against the company.  It is likely that a Motion to Dismiss the Amended Complaint which was filed earlier this will transpire prior to the litigation of the lawsuit on the merits. MMA Payout will keep you posted

Cotto-Kamegai draws 730,000 on HBO

August 31, 2017

The Saturday night HBO live telecast of Miguel Cotto versus Yoshihiro Kamegai drew 730,000 viewers per Nielsen via ShowBuzz Daily.

According to a report from the LA Times, the event peaked at 805,000 viewers which was very good considering all of the hype centered around The Money Fight.  Cotto dominated a spirited fight with Kamegai and earned a unanimous decision.  Notably, the fight ended prior to the start of the Mayweather-McGregor fight.  The Money Fight was delayed due to technical issues with providers but the Cotto fight probably would have ended prior to the anticipated original start time.

The other fight on the HBO telecast was Rey Vargas fighting Ronny Rios.  Vargas defeated Rios in a super bantamweight fight.  The peak audience for the fight was 687,000 viewers and drew an average viewership of 524,000.  The fight competed with the undercard of the PPV telecast.

In addition, the first episode of the 24/7 between Canelo and GGG drew 351,000 viewers and 0.12 in the A18-49 demo.  A portion of the telecast went up against The Money Fight.

Payout Perspective:

It was a strong night of boxing and the HBO telecast did not fall off due to the PPV telecast.  Perhaps boxing fans wanted to find a fight prior to the PPV and I would imagine a lot of fans were flipping back and forth between the HBO telecast and waiting on the Mayweather-McGregor fight.

UFC and Showtime face issuing refunds after technical difficulties for Mayweather-McGregor

August 29, 2017

After The Money Fight technical difficulty situation, the UFC and vendor NeuLion must determine how to address the situation.

A lawsuit has been filed related to the technical difficulties which angered many that paid $99.95 to watch the much-hyped Floyd Mayweather-Conor McGregor fight.

ESPN reports that Showtime has issued a “limited number” of refunds to those that complained, but only for its direct-to-consumer offerings which include its streaming and app product.  Notably, the lawsuit filed in the U.S. District Court of Oregon relates to its lead plaintiff purchasing the PPV on the Showtime App.  He claimed the event was “grainy” buffered and stalled.

The fight was delayed 20 minutes to accommodate for the technical difficulties but those paying $99.95 were shut out of the telecast.  According to a report from the Las Vegas Review-Journal, the PPV issues “appeared to come from a surge of late purchase and connectivity issues.”

The UFC issued a statement via Darren Rovell:

After this statement, it has now indicated that it is reviewing PPV Fight Pass refunds on a “case-by-case” basis.

Payout Perspective:

This is as much a public relations issues as it will eventually be a legal issue.  One might understand the UFC would not want to issue blanket refunds but if the technical difficulties occurred from UFC Fight Pass subscribers that made the additional purchase, you’d have to think that at least a credit to the account is necessary.  For Showtime, it is issuing refunds but is also “passing the buck” in referring those that made the PPV purchase through a cable or satellite company to speak with them.  You have to think that UFC is pointing to NeuLion to indemnify them from any potential issues and/or seek reimbursement for any refunds that they may have to issue.  The bottom line is the concern of how much this will affect the bottom line for the UFC and Showtime.

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