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To Pay Per View Or NOT To PPV, We Put The Question To You

Michael Woods

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They are running on parallel tracks, on a collision course.

On Saturday, Top Rank liked the numbers achieved when they put that Teofimo Lopez v Vasiliy Lomachenko lightweight low key semi-super fight on “regular” ESPN. At one point, Nielsen Media Research reported, the main event peaked at 2,898,000 viewers. The average number of viewers for the card, 2.7 million, is the highest number for a boxing show since that Manny Pacquiao v. Jeff Horn fight, in 2017 (2.8 million average). And, note this: the Nielsen tabulation doesn’t factor in how many watched on EPSPN’s OTT app, ESPN+.

Over there, you have the Showtime crew trotting out their young gun du jour, Gervonta Davis. He’s gloving up at 135, same as Teofimo, on Oct. 31. Davis will take on Leo Santa Cruz, on paper his stiffest test, and a more than respectable foe for the Baltimore sniper.

How many will tune in for that clash, we wonder. It won’t be in the Teofimo-Loma ballpark, because it is being offered on pay per view. Systems are showing it available for pre-order now, for $74.95.

To PPV, or not PPV, that is a pretty prevalent question making the rounds. It has been a topic for discussion offf an on for a long time, of course. And some people always bitched hard about it, and some folks decided it was the cost of doing business, of being a boxing fan. Maybe you are old enough to remember that in the 80s into the 90s, some people tried to do a work-around, and purchased a decoder box, on the black market, which enabled them to get scrambled signals un0-scrambled, and avoid the premium surcharge. These days, some people wanting to avoid the added fee seek a stream, a “pirated” stream.

Yes, the issue is a nuanced one. This construct exists mostly because the sport is a combat sport, and isn’t as universally embraced as other pro sports which are backed by corporations, in the form of advertising, largely. And the top athletes in the game want eye popping purses, in the neighborhood of what the top performers in NBA, NFL and MLB receive. So, how to muster that pile of loot? Charge the customer–it’s capitalism, my friends. And customers can turn up their noses, and decide to play Xbox, or watch Netflix on Oct. 31 if they like.

Bob Arum right now is hammering the theme, that PPV is no bueno, that we need to put good fights on “free” TV, such as ESPN. And there is still the school of thought that PPV is what it is, it is here to stay, it contributes to the athletes being well compensated for their efforts.

I put it to Twitter, asking my followers if they will buy that Gervonta PPV. And, I asked, does the price affect your decision to buy, or not?

Here are a couple responses to that little poll:

Editor/publisher Michael Woods became addicted to boxing in 1990, when Buster Douglas shocked the world with his demolition of the fearsome Mike Tyson. The Brooklyn-based journalist Woods has covered the sport since then, for ESPN The Magazine, ESPN.com, ESPN New York, RING, and he was editor of TheSweetScience.com from 2007-2015. Woods is also an accomplished blow by blow and color man, having done work for Top Rank, DiBella Entertainment, EPIX, and numerous other organizations.

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