WITH the Floyd Mayweather-Manny Pacquiao Fight of the Century finally signed for May 2 in Las Vegas, and both boxers firmly ensconsed in training camp, interest on British shores is now centred around who will obtain the UK TV rights.
While rival pay-per-view giants HBO and Showtime have agreed that sharing is caring as it pertains to the US broadcast – especially when the financial rewards are so vast – no such collaboration is expected in Britain. The rights here are expected to fetch between £10-12m, with three serious contenders in upstart newcomers BT Sport, boxing devotees BoxNation and multi-sport behemoth Sky Sports. Here, Boxing News analyses the chances of each brand.
Why: On a purely short-term, one-off financial basis, they have the most to gain. They have an established PPV arm in Sky Box Office and if they charge the anticipated £20 per buy would require around 550,000 purchases to break even – that’s less than half the amount a less famous Mayweather’s 2007 win over Ricky Hatton drew. Add that Sky Sports already have around two million subscribers and several channels across which to convert casual viewers into buying the event, they offer the largest audience and are rightly the clear favourites.
Why not: While their PPV platform is attractive and generally a positive factor, there is a strong chance the US fight promoters – Mayweather Promotions and Top Rank, who handle Pacquiao – would seek a slice of the pay-per-view take as well as a flat rights fee, thus cutting into Sky’s profit margin. Furthermore, boxing appears to sit quite far down the company’s list of priorities – this event will not make or break them – and the recent huge outlay on Premier League football may restrict their spending.
Chances: 70 per cent
Why: Simply put, they need this. The channel’s three-month subscription model relies upon their showing a major event at least once every quarter. This attracts the casuals and retains them during the more fallow periods. This calibre of fight – unprecented in the BoxNation era – would doubtless lure far more than the claimed 240,000 subscriber high the station enjoyed around the 2011 David Haye-Dereck Chisora grudge match. If they currently have 100,000 on the books, and that figure rises to 300,000 – a conservative estimate perhaps – they would enjoy a guaranteed boost of only £2.4m if these new fans only stayed for the minimum term. However this would be a long-term gambit for BoxNation and if say half of the new subscribers stayed for a year they would make a healthy profit by the end of that period. It would also secure the channel’s future for some time to come.
Why not: While BoxNation do have a PPV option for non-subscribers, their official website promises they will never charge existing subscribers on a pay-per-view basis. This is a sensible long-term strategy but cuts out a lucrative short-term revenue stream. Which leads to the more significant drawback: money. Can multi-millionaire investor Bill Ives locate a spare £11m in his expensive slacks to fund this calculated risk? They are financial minnows compared to their rivals so Ives or someone similarly wealthy would have to be convinced the potential gains outweigh the short-term pains.
Chances: 16 per cent
Why: With over a million subscribers, their audience is at least five times larger than BoxNation and closing in on Sky Sports (not Sky TV as a whole, it should be noted). Moreover they have big cash reserves and assets and are keen to make statements of intent – as shown by their headline acquisitions of Premier League and Champions’ League football. Clearly they could win a bidding war and use the event as another tool with which to convince broadband users to switch to them – and thus get BT Sport for free.
Why not: This event is not crucial to their business model, unlike the football coverage, the impact of which will stretch for years to come. BT Sport is still not available on every carrier – Talk Talk do not have it just as BT TV does not include BoxNation – and they have no real history of live boxing content. Their Boxing Tonight magazine programme relies on repeat footage supplied by BoxNation, their use of ESPN’s Friday Night Fights takes place at unsociable hours, while off-record discussions indicate BT do not see boxing as a critical part of their offering.
Chances: 14 per cent