Ratings from Saturday night’s events on HBO-Showtime

April 23, 2015

ESPN’s Dan Rafael reports the ratings from Saturday’s boxing events on HBO and Showtime.  The shows went head to head with two intriguing main events.

HBO had the much anticipated fight between Lucas Matthysse and Ruslan Provodnikov drew 1.243 million subscribers and peaked at 1.38 million.

Rafael also reports that the fight between Julio Cesar Chavez-Andrzej Fonfara on Showtime drew 618,000 viewers with a peak of 836,000.  Fonfara upset Chavez in the latter’s return to the ring.  The last time Chavez fought was on an HBO card that drew an average of 1.4 million HBO subscribers.  On the Showtime undercard, the fight between Amir Iman and Walter Castillo averaged 346,000 viewers with a peak at 427,000.

Prior to the Matthysse-Provodnikov fight, Terrence Crawford knocked out Thomas Dulorme.  That fight drew 1.0004 million viewers peaking at 1.084 million viewers.  Crawford’s last fight on HBO in December drew 836,000 subscribers of the premium network peaking at 936,000 viewers.

Payout Perspective:

In addition to dueling boxing events, Saturday night was the UFC on Fox, NHL and NBA Playoffs so there was lot for sports fans to pick.  However, for boxing fans the big event of the night was the showdown between Matthysse and Provodnikov which many thought was a draw despite Matthysse pulling out the victory.  It was also a nice bounce back for Terrence Crawford in terms of viewers as he had disappointing numbers in December despite being backed by a Pacquiao replay.  This time, being linked with Matthysse-Provodnikov likely helped too.  Yet, the average for Chavez Fonfara has to be considered a disappointment based on Chavez’ name value.  Of course, it could be extrinsic factors about JCC that may turn boxing fans off

System set in payouts for Mayweather-Pacquiao

April 18, 2015

The New York Times reported on the unusual need for a central system to be used for the logistical payouts for Manny Pacquiao and Floyd Mayweather with respect to the long-awaited fight coming May 2nd.

The article primarily relies on quotes from Pacquiao promoter Bob Arum with respect to how the gross revenues will be divided between the two fighters and other ancillary entities.

For Pacquiao, he is on the wrong-end of a 60-40 revenue split but should clear over $100 million when all is said and done. Of course, the IRS will take its share from Pacquiao (and Mayweather we assume) right off the top.

Rival networks, HBO and Showtime are co-producing and co-distributing the PPV event. They have dueling shoulder programs on its respective networks and in a unique production agreement, each of the networks’ broadcast teams will participate in the event (including dueling ring announcers). The two sides have created a central accounting system to ensure what one might believe is “integrity” in splitting the revenues from what should be the biggest event in boxing history (at least from a gross profits standpoint).

The central system will distribute the revenue in accordance with the contracts of the two fighters.

All revenue from the fight would be put into the central accounting system. This would include foreign broadcast rights, closed-circuit income, ticket sales, sponsorships, merchandise sales, etc. The estimate of these monies per the NYT is at $130 million. In addition, PPV revenue which could gross $300 million also goes into this pot.

Most of the PPV revenue will go to the fighters minus 15% (7.5% each for HBO and Showtime). You may recall that HBO and Showtime were in vigorous negotiations with the satellite and cable companies regarding the PPV distribution for the event.

A “wrinkle” pointed out by Arum is that the winner of the fight will receive a 51-49 percent split for revenue between $160 million and $180 million. Thus, ideally the winner will receive $10.2 million while the loser gets $9.8 million. The amount over $180 million reverts to the 60-40 split in favor of Mayweather.

Payout Perspective:

Despite the lofty price point for this PPV, it is believed it should break the PPV record. Similarly, the $72 million gate at the MGM will break a record as well. One might assume the same for international rights, closed-circuit money, sponsorships and merchandise. It’s clear that the logistics for splitting up the revenues required a central system (we assume with necessary checks, balances and protocols).

Top Rank to air boxing series on truTV

April 2, 2015

Earlier this week Top Rank Boxing and truTV announced a deal that would put boxing on the Turner Network starting with live fight cards on Friday, May 1st.

truTV is best known for running men’s NCAA Basketball Tournament games during March.  Otherwise, most sports fans would not know of the network’s existence.

The series will hold 8 card this year and will be “in association with Turner Sports and HBO Sports” per ESPN.  For those wondering, HBO and Turner are under the same umbrella owned by Time Warner.

HBO will promote the series and the first three events (May 1st, May 8th and May 15th) on truTV will de facto serve as promotional tolls for bigger fights put on by HBO the next day.

Turner Sports will assist in marketing and producing the series.  The broadcast team is not known at this point although it will be provided by Turner Sports and/or Top Rank.

truTV is in 89.7 million households according to TV by the Numbers.

Payout Perspective:

Another boxing series on television although this was does not involve Al Haymon.  The series may compete with SpikeTV’s lineup of combat sports (which include’s Haymon’s PBC) and the new line of boxing coming up later this year on ESPN.  With all the boxing that has been announced this year, it’s hard to fathom a network not carrying the sport.  Is there a point where there is too much boxing?  While I do see the benefit of running live events to further promote bigger events, one would have to wonder if these truTV cards would be only for the most ardent boxing fan.

May-Pac PPV will cost $99

April 1, 2015

The Wall Street Journal is reporting that May 2nd’s long-awaited PPV fight between Manny Pacquiao and Floyd Mayweather, Jr. will have a price point of $99 HD and $89 SD.  It will be the highest priced PPV ever.

The previous high for a sport PPV was “The One” which featured Mayweather fighting Canelo Alvarez.  The event which drew a record $152 million in PPV also had the highest price point, $74.95 HD ($64.95 SD) for a PPV prior to next month’s event.

HBO and Showtime are handling the negotiations with pay-TV distributors and had sought an advantageous split on behalf of Mayweather and Pacquiao.  With a normal split of 50/50 for PPVs, HBO and Showtime were looking for a 70/30 split of the PPV revenue.  Of course, pay-TV distributors balked at the proposal.

The key distributors involved are iN Demand and DirecTV. The other distributors that the networks must reach agreements with are Dish Network and Vubiquity, the entity that handles negotiations for AT&T and others.

The WSJ report indicates that distributors will concede a split in the favor of the networks but not as much as the 70% proposal.

Estimates claim that the PPV could garner 3 million PPV buys which may almost double the previous PPV record.

Payout Perspective:

It’s unlikely that $100 will deter many wanting to see this fight.  Although the price is steep for a fight that many believe should have happened years ago, it is still an attraction that is unique and features the best known boxers in the sport.  It was no surprise that HBO and Showtime sought a bigger piece of the pie in these negotiations as both are trying to maximize the revenues as they have agreed to partner in this event.

Mayweather-Pacquiao agree to USADA testing

March 13, 2015

The LA Times is reporting that Manny Pacquiao and Floyd Mayweather have agreed to enhanced drug testing by the United States Anti-Doping Agency (USADA). While in previous negotiations for this fight, the parties stalled on the issue, this time around the Olympic-style drug testing was quickly accepted.

One of the reasons why the camps for Mayweather and Pacquiao could never put the fight together was due to issues related to drug testing. Mayweather had accused Pacquiao of taking steroids. This led to a lawsuit in which Pacquiao sued Mayweather for defamation. In addition to a settlement in which Mayweather paid Pacquiao a reported $5 million, he also paid Pacquiao’s lawyers over $113,000 in legal fees and costs for evading a deposition.

Bob Arum, Pacquiao’s promoter, indicates that Pacquiao has submitted to VADA (Voluntary Anti-Doping Association) for years. The organization implements similar drug testing protocol to USADA.

Under USADA, the boxers will submit to urine and blood testing which may happen at any time. Each fighter has agreed to the World Anti-Doping Agency code stipulation which includes a four-year ban from competition if an athlete tests positive for a banned substance.

Payout Perspective:

The drug testing issue is good news and verifies the fact that each fighter should be free of PEDs. The UFC will be looking for a similar drug testing policy by July and an organization like USADA would be very beneficial in cleaning up the sport. Obviously for the UFC, there are a variety of hurdles (legal and political) it must clear before it implements its policy in July.

Rios-Alvarado trilogy scores 1.252M viewers

January 27, 2015

ESPN’s Dan Rafael reports that Saturday night’s HBO boxing card featuring the third fight between Brandon Rios and Mike Alvardo drew 1.252 million HBO viewers.  According to Nielsen the peak of the fight drew 1.315 million viewers.

Per Rafael, it was the most watch fight of the three between Rios and Alvardo.  Also on Saturday, the Gilberto Ramirez-Maxim Vlasov fight which preceded the main event drew 820,000 viewers with a peak at 946,000 viewers.

Payout Perspective:

HBO Boxing on Saturday featuring Rios-Alvarado (which occurred after UFC on Fox 14) outdid the big Deontay Wilder-Bermane Stiverne fight on Showtime the week before.  The ratings for the fights on HBO and Showtime show that boxing is gaining some ratings momentum.  With the news that Al Haymon has secured spots on NBC, NBC Sports Network and SpikeTV, we can see more of good boxing events in 2015.

2014: a look at some of the business issues in boxing

January 2, 2015

MMA Payout takes a quick review of 2014 in the sport of boxing.

2014 was an interesting year for the sport as boxing began to expand with more PPVs than the standard Pacquiao and Mayweather bi-yearly events.

Canelo Alvarez faced Alfredo Angulo in March (the event drew an impressive 350,000 PPV buys), Sergio Martinez faced Miguel Cotto in New York in June (although projected to score 475,000 PPV buys, it drew just an estimated 350,000) and Alvarez returned in July to headline a PPV with Erislandly Lara (it drew an estimated 300,000 PPV buys).  There were also hints of Gennady Golovkin fighting on PPV although that never came to fruition.

Floyd Mayweather fought Marcos Maidana twice this year.  After May’s Mayweather PPV (in which it reportedly drew 900,000 PPV buys), Showtime President Stephen Espinoza informed the media that it would no longer release PPV buy numbers unless the event sets a PPV record.   However, after the second fight in September, it was revealed that the rematch drew 925,000 PPV buys.

Manny Pacquiao’s days as a PPV draw seem to be waning.  Although his rematch with Tim Bradley drew an estimated 750-800K PPV buys, it was down from the near 900K PPV buys in their first fight.  Although nothing official has been released, the Manny Pacquiao-Chris Algieri fight in November drew between 300,000 to 400,000 PPV buys depending on who you asked.  If this number is correct, it’s a huge drop off for Pacquiao.  This would be a likely reason why the push for the mythical matchup with Floyd Mayweather.

In October, ESPN’s Dan Rafael posted the top events in 2014 thus far.  Julio Cesar Chavez vs. Brian Vera 2 drew 1.39 million viewers with a peak of 1.53 million.  The ratings were for only that fight and not the entire card airing on HBO.  HBO dominated the top rated boxing events on cable (premium and/or regular) and Showtime did not crack the top 10.  Still, the competition between the two premium cable channels seemed to heat up in 2014.

With the Kovalev-Hopkins fight, we may see the cold war between Top Rank and Golden Boy softening.  Yet, Al Haymon still is one of the unseen, most powerful men in the business.

There were several notable lawsuits in 2014.

First, Main Events Promotions, the promoter for Sergey Kovalev sued Al Haymon, Golden Boy, boxer Adonis Stevenson and others for backing out of a potential fight between Kovalev and Stevenson.  The lawsuit was dismissed as the parties settled when Kovalev got his big fight against Bernard Hopkins. 

Next, Andre Ward lost a California State Athletic Commission arbitration hearing this past spring against his promoter Goosen Tutor Promotions.  Ward then turned around and sued him in Federal Court alleging violations of the Muhammad Ali Boxing Reform Act.

Mikey Garcia sued Top Rank alleging issues with his contract including violations of the Muhammad Ali Boxing Reform Act.  The lawsuit was transferred to Nevada as Garcia originally filed in California.

Don King was found in breach of contract when his fighter failed a drug test for an event in Russia in 2014.

In addition to these lawsuits, there were major shakeups at Golden Boy with former CEO Richard Schaefer leaving Golden Boy.  But, it appears to be a messy divorce with Golden Boy seeking $50 million in private arbitration.

Just like MMA, 2015 should be an interesting year for boxing.

Crawford, Pacquiao replay come up with disappointing ratings Saturday

December 3, 2014

ESPN’s Dan Rafael reports that Saturday night’s HBO Boxing After Dark featuring Terence Crawford scored an average of only 836,000 viewers of its subscribers with a peak at 936,000.  The event also include the replay of Manny Pacquiao-Chris Algieri from the week before which scored an average of 904,000 with a peak of 1.120 million viewers.

The other live fight of the night, Evgeny Gradovich and Jayson Velez drew more viewers than the feature.  It averaged 865,000 viewers with a peak of 1.033 million.  Crawford defeated Raymundo Beltran and Gradovich and Velez fought to a draw.

As is traditional for HBO/Showtime boxing events, the ratings were given for the specific fights and not on the event as a whole.

Payout Perspective:

The event did go up against the big Auburn-Alabama game (which drew 13.5 million viewers) and other rivalry college football games.  Rafael points out the fact that the main event occurred late for east coast viewers which may have impacted the draw.  Still, the number is poor considering the event also included the PPV replay.  Moreover, Crawford drew 1.2M viewers for his fight this summer. As one of the fighters that could (and should) carry the torch for boxing post-Mayweather/Pacquiao, the ratings are disappointing.  Yet, the opening fight did better ratings than Crawford.

SBJ survey looks at UFC growth, Fight Pass

November 29, 2014

The Sports Business Journal revealed its annual reader survey on various topics related to sports business.  This year included questions about the UFC, WWE and boxing.

In a survey related to over the top networks, readers indicated that the UFC is the “Fight sport” that will see the biggest growth over the next five years.  Of the 684 readers that responded, the UFC garnered 72% while boxing drew 17% and the WWE had 11%.

It also asked readers which over-the-top service was their favorite.  Of the 818 responses, NFL Now drew the most votes with only 11%, followed by 120 Sports with 9%, WWE Network with 4% and then UFC Fight Pass with just 1%.  Notably, 75% of the respondents stated it did not watch any of them.

On an unrelated, yet interesting note on digital league subscriptions, readers found MLB.tv (22% of the 818 respondents) their favorite followed by NFL Sunday Ticket (18%) with NHL GameCenter Live coming in third (14%).  This is interesting considering the NFL usually takes tops with its coverage.

Payout Perspective:

SBJ indicates it has a readership of over 54,000 with many business executives in sports reading the trade publication.  The UFC is periodically featured in the publication and the UFC and WWE both advertise in it.  Obviously, the survey is not based on anything other than the opinions of the readers.  Still, it’s an interesting viewpoint on the business from those that do not closely follow the UFC.  With the “growth” aspect, it’s clear that the UFC is moving into more global markets and are forging overseas television deals to advance its product.  The WWE is already global and it depends on what organization you look at when looking at boxing.  Certainly, Top Rank is trying to tap into the Chinese market.  As for the over the top networks, it appears that we are still in the “early adopter” stage for the platform.  The WWE has gone all in with its network but the UFC seems to be doing much better with Fight Pass despite the perception from the survey.

Payout Perspect: Pacquiao-Algieri Perspective

November 26, 2014

Welcome to a special edition of Payout Perspective.  This time we take a look at Manny Pacquiao’s latest fight this past Saturday against Chris Algieri at the Venetian Macao off of mainland China.

Pacquiao posts 6 knockdowns in rout of Algieri

Maybe 2 of the knockdowns were due to slipping in Pacquiao’s corner.  Yet, the other four were legitimate and reflects the fact that Chris Algieri was not in the same class of Manny Pacquiao.  Although Pacquiao’s star may not be as bright in the U.S., the Macao fans were fully behind him. Pacquiao could not end Algieri short of the final bell but showed that he still had the speed and power to score some impressive knockdowns.

So what’s next for Pacquiao?  He is contemplating a move back down to 140 pounds where Roy Jones-trained Jessie Vargas, who was on the undercard, may be an interesting match-up.  Of course, there is that long-awaited fight with Floyd Mayweather looming.  Then again, everyone has heard these rumors for years.

PAC Algieri

Vargas, Lomachenko and Shiming score victories

Jessie Vargas, Vasyl Lomachenko and Zou Shiming scored victories on the undercard of the PPV.  Vargas, now trained by Roy Jones, Jr. defeated Antonio DeMarco, a Freddie Roach fighter, in the opener.  Lomachenko, in his first title defense, defeated Chonlatarn Piriyapinyo and Zou Shiming defeated a Thai Manny Pacquiao doppelganger, Kwanpichit Onesongchaigym.

Attendance

ESPN reported attendance a sellout at 13,201 at Macao’s Cotai Arena off the coast of mainland China.   Last year for Pacquiao-Rios was a sellout as well.

Promotion

Conspicuous by its absence, were the HBO 24/7 three part episodes.  Instead, we were given just one 24/7 but it was probably for the best.  While we could have been introduced to Algieri more, I’m sure HBO execs were unsure about how much to invest in the boxer still living with his parents.  Algieri had a good backstory and the first 5 minutes of 24/7 did a good job in drawing parallels between Pacquiao and Algieri. Also, I’m sure it’s becoming harder to find interesting stories for Pacquiao.  This time around they followed him around making the rounds as a politician and captured him playing for a basketball team he now owns.

Although Pacquiao and Algieri made the normal rounds to promote the fight, it felt like this fight did not have the usual Pac Man buzz.

Sponsorships

Sponsors in the ring included Tecate, the upcoming Fox series Empire and Philippine paint company Boysen.

Probably the best promotion for this fight was Manny Pacquiao’s Foot Locker commercial which played on the reaction of Manny Pacquiao when he mistakenly believed that Floyd Mayweather had accepted a fight with him.  In that commercial, Pacquiao sported a Nike, “Black Mamba Training” t-shirt.

Pacquiao-630x355

Pacquiao had his usual sponsors including Nike. Ricoa, Café Puro and mobile app company Viber.

Algieri wore a Nike-sponsored Stony Brook (his alma mater) jersey to the weigh-ins and was sponsored by the swoosh for this fight.  Similar to Tim Bradley, the company made a logo for him.

Cerritos and South Coast Mitshubishi patches were all over boxers and corner men throughout the night.  It is the Dynamic Fastener of boxing.

Odds and ends

Dionesia Pacquiao, Manny Pacquiao’s mother was once again a part of the show. Notably, she was going around the ring post-fight with her rosary.

Having an annual event in Macao appears to be part of the plan for HBO/Top Rank as it seeks growth in the Chinese market.

Busy night for Freddie Roach with multiple fighters including Zou Shiming and Pacquaio on the card.

Possibly the fight of the night was the PPV opener with Jessie Vargas defeating Antonio DeMarco.  Vargas could be someone on the radar for Pacquiao.

Notably, comedian Dave Chapelle, Arnold Schwarzenegger and Sylvester Stallone were all in attendance.  Chappelle had made the trip last year for Pacquiao’s fight.

Conclusion

There were over 500,000 google searches for Manny Pacqiuao Saturday.  Is that good?  Yes, but I am not confident that the amount of searches for Pacquiao would equate to PPV buys.  Pacquiao’s Macao fight last year against Brandon Rios did only 450K-550K PPV buys depending on who you asked.  It felt like there was less promotion done domestically and we may see this hurt the buy rate.  I would expect the same PPV range as the Rios fight last year.

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