Can 'Free' Boxing Free Boxing?
HBO hopes less PPV means more fans
By Ben Grossman -- Broadcasting & Cable, 1/18/2009 7:00:00 PM
With the sport of boxing and the U.S. economy both taking a beating, HBO is shifting its strategy and relocating many of its big fights from pay-per-view (PPV) to its network.
HBO Sports chief Ross Greenburg hopes the move to make more top-tier fights available to HBO customers will infuse some life into the sport.
"The sport needs more eyeballs," he says. "It's ironic, but while in bad times you'd expect the sport to suffer, it could actually trigger the opposite effect."
In 2008, HBO Pay Per View offered eight events, bringing in $190 million in revenue based on 3.7 million buys.
But as the economy worsened, buy rates began to drop. Even midsize events that were projected at 300,000 buys were dipping below 200,000. A big December fight between PPV king Oscar De La Hoya and Manny Pacquiao did garner nearly 1.3 million buys, but sponsor rebates may have padded that figure.
HBO's shift means satellite and cable providers will have fewer pay-per-view boxing events in 2009. The network probably won't do its first PPV bout until May, a proposed fight between fan-favorites Ricky Hatton and Pacquiao. By May of last year, HBO had already done four events.
"It's tough to get people excited about dishing out 50 bucks every month in this economy," Greenburg says. "Everyone overreached in 2008; there were too many pay-per-view events."
The first example of HBO's strategy is its World Championship Boxing airing of the Jan. 24 bout between "Sugar" Shane Mosley and Antonio Margarito, which Greenburg says would have absolutely been on PPV last year.
Making matters worse for the sport and its PPV numbers has been both a terribly subpar heavyweight division—traditionally a huge PPV draw—and the aging of many other stars.
PPV money-printer De La Hoya was humiliated by Pacquiao in what should be De La Hoya's last big fight, while Floyd Mayweather Jr. has retired—at least for now.
All of this comes at a time when mixed martial arts outfits like the Ultimate Fighting Championship have continued to garner momentum, though Greenburg says he thinks the sports have "two different audiences."
there's never being anything call'free boxing' the only thing to get the promoter to find who or what company want's to support it by advertising their product and also 'get this fighters to take less so maybe we all will enyoyed the fight and everyone will be winners'like when they had friday night fights and gillette used to be the main advertised product' it's getting out of hand paying so much to see sometimes a fight of two fighters that should never be fighting and OUT OF SHAPE'julio'THANKS'and lets' get going'
julio Ramos - 1/21/2009 10:05:59 AM EST
Free boxing should only be for up-and-commers, top prospects, or former elite fighters who have stumbled. This will help the industry as well as separate the best from the rest. Elite fighters like Manny Pacquiao should only be on pay-per-view as that is the epitome of boxing greatness, the main event fighter. If there was no PPV, then what is the end game of a boxer but getting their due rewards? You don't see UFC letting their elite fighters fight on Spike.
With regards to the previous post, comments like these are what fuels PPV. There seems to be a lot of hate against Pacquiao because he has beaten the best of the best in the sport. Many watch him because he is the most exciting fighter to have come out of boxing in this era. Whatever the case, everyone loves watching Pacquiao and that is precisely why certain fighters should only be on PPV. Everyone else can go "free" until they prove that they are in the same class him.
Horus - 1/19/2009 4:36:13 PM EST
That's good. This will free boxing from Manny Pacquiao who demands bigger share from PPV.
In this time of crisis,we need free boxing.
mang godo - 1/19/2009 8:57:26 AM EST
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