PPV droops year-to-date

Revenue suffers without blowout boxing bouts

Pay-per-view is feeling the absence of Iron Mike. Revenue for the category is down 30% this year, from $267.1 million in the first six months of 1999 to $186.4 million in the same period this year, according to a report by Showtime Event Television.

Boxing alone dropped by 54% without Tyson, who fought Frans Botha in January 1999. That fight and last year's bout between Evander Holyfield and Lennox Lewis grossed in excess of $100 million. So far this year, a total of four PPV boxing bouts has generated just about $55 million. Tyson's only televised fight so far this year, an abbreviated bout with Scotsman Lou Savarase, was pulled from PPV by Showtime and run on its own pay channel. That 38-second fiasco, in which Tyson kept punching after the ref called the fight, led to further speculation about the boxer's future.

Boxing matches are the biggest individual events, but wrestling is by far the largest category, with 20 events pulling in $123 million, or 66% of all PPV revenue for the first six months of 2000. Wrestling revenue is down 12% from last year, when Wrestlemania XV pulled down its largest numbers ever. Last year's Wrestlemania outsold this year's event by about 50,000 buys.

The total number of events was down as well, from 66 last year to 55 this year. Suppliers are less willing to take the financial risk, said Mark Greenberg, general manager and executive vice president of SET PPV. Another PPV executive said that the drop in revenue is just a matter of timing and that more events will pick up the slack in the remaining months.

In fact, Broadway Television Network will launch its fare with the musical revue Smokey Joe's Caféon Sunday, Sept. 10, at 8:30 p.m. ET.

"Sure, when boxing gets a cold, pay-per-view gets the flu," said John Rubey, president of PPV event supplier Spring Communications. "But when boxing backs off a little bit, that's an opportunity for other events."