Fox Sports on Saturday will conclude its 2019 pay-per-view fight schedule with the Deontay Wilder-Luis Oritz heavyweight championship rematch fight. The event, which retails at a suggested price of $75, will be Fox Sports and its partner Premier Boxing Championships’ inaugural foray into the heavyweight division after three welterweight PPV main events.
The first fight between the two heavyweights in 2018 -- won by titleholder Wilder in a 10th round knockout -- aired on Showtime.
I recently spoke to Fox Sports Executive Vice President and Head of Programming and Scheduling Bill Wanger about the marketing and promotional effort for Wilder-Ortiz, as well as Fox Sports’ PPV boxing plans for 2020. The edited transcript of the interview appears below.
What makes the Wilder-Ortiz rematch bout a pay-per-view event, given that the first fight aired on the Showtime premium channel?
I think the heavyweight division is back with a vengeance, and there are a lot of interesting fighters and storylines emerging. Deontay Wilder is as big as they come in the heavyweight division both literally and figuratively, so we thought it would be a great opportunity to showcase him on PPV. We schedule these PPV events strategically to have some of the best ones in the fall where we can take advantage of our promotional machine within NFL, the baseball playoffs and college football. The fight came together and here we are.
How much promotion are you putting behind the fight?
Promos for the fight have been running for a couple of weeks, and we have produced more than 10 hours of shoulder programming. Our countdown show debuted (on Nov. 9) delivered close to 700,000 viewers. We are also producing four Fight Camp episodes, and the first episode of that series, which aired after an NFL telecast [on Fox broadcasting], delivered 2.2 million views.
Do you expect this fight in the heavyweight division to perform on par or better than your first three fights, which were all based in the welterweight division?
I think this fight will be right in the neighborhood of some of the past fights we’ve done. We’ll get a better read on that next week, but we have every confidence that this is going to be right in line with how we’ve been doing. I don’t see the difference in terms of the marketability of the divisions. They are all kind of equal in terms of stature so to speak.
Having said that, how many PPV buys do you predict for Wilder-Ortiz?
As you know, we don’t comment on those numbers.
How would you characterize your partnership with Premier Boxing Champions one year into your multi-year agreement with the boxing promotion company?
We’re just completing our first year of the deal and its all systems go. We have a great relationship -- we’ve really built a boxing infrastructure within Fox Sports over the last year, and we’ll continue to hone it. We’re really looking forward to 2020 -- there could be some epic fights coming up.
Looking ahead to 2020, will you continue to same pace of scheduling a PPV fight each quarter for the year?
I think the four to five in the calendar year is the sweet spot for us. There are some real interesting things that could be happening both in the heavyweight division and the welterweight division. Outside of that you have the 154 pounders and the 168 (pound fighters) where we’re looking to have some strong unification bouts -- some of which will be on the Fox broadcast channel.
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R. Thomas Umstead serves as senior content producer, programming for Multichannel News, Broadcasting + Cable and Next TV. During his more than 30-year career as a print and online journalist, Umstead has written articles on a variety of subjects ranging from TV technology, marketing and sports production to content distribution and development. He has provided expert commentary on television issues and trends for such TV, print, radio and streaming outlets as Fox News, CNBC, the Today show, USA Today, The New York Times and National Public Radio. Umstead has also filmed, produced and edited more than 100 original video interviews, profiles and news reports featuring key cable television executives as well as entertainers and celebrity personalities.