Pay-per-view to pack a huge financial punch
LAS VEGAS — George Foreman was fighting Evander Holyfield for the title, and anyone wanting to watch it in April 1991 had to plan ahead.
It was the night boxing payper-view was born. But to get the fight, customers had to go to their local cable TV offices and put a deposit down for a box that would allow them to get the bout.
“I remember the Friday before the fight we were getting calls from cable operators saying there were lines wrapped around the building a number of times and not enough boxes to meet the demand,” said Mark Taffet, who oversees pay-per-view for HBO.
The fight cost $35.95 US, and 1.4 million people bought it for their homes. They got their money’s worth when Holyfield took some big punches from the 42-yearold Foreman, but fired back with more of his own to win a unanimous decision.
A lot has changed in a quarter-century. Now it takes just a few clicks of the remote to buy a fight. The potential audience, meanwhile, has grown from 16.5 million addressable homes to nearly 100 million.
And, of course, the price has gone up. It will cost $99.95 to watch Floyd Mayweather Jr. fight Manny Pacquiao Saturday night.
Cost aside, more than three million people are expected to buy the megafight for their homes, helping make it the richest fight ever. The bout is set to break records for both number of buys (the current mark is 2.48 million for Mayweather’s 2007 fight with Oscar De La Hoya) and total pay-per-view revenue ($150 million, set by Mayweather and Canelo Alvarez in 2013).
“We expect we will break the pay-per-view record,” said Showtime executive Stephen Espinoza, whose network is producing the telecast and is partners with HBO in delivering it. “We’re not sure exactly where the ceiling is but we are already seeing unprecedented traffic and unprecedented viewership. There are all kinds of indicators which point to huge success, we’re just not sure how huge of a success it will end up being.”
If more than three million people buy the telecast it would mean huge payouts for the two fighters. Promoters get an average of between $55 and $60 for each pay-perview after splitting with the networks and distributors, meaning revenue to the camps of the two fighters could near the $200 million mark.