HBO Still Upbeat About 2011 PPV Boxing Prospects

Amid Saturday’s HBO telecast of the highly anticipated Devon Alexander-Timothy Bradley junior welterweight unification championship fight, boxing observers were still buzzing about Showtime’s counter punch against HBO in the pay-per-view boxing arena.

Showtime’s surprising deal to distribute the May 7 Manny Pacquiao-Shane Mosely PPV fight caught most industry observers by surprise.  Showtime will partner with sister broadcast network CBS to distribute its first blockbuster PPV event since teaming with HBO to offer the 2002 Lennox Lewis/Mike Tyson bout.

CBS will distribute in prime time one of four episodes from Showtime’s Fight Camp 360 Pacquiao-Mosley documentary series, as well as offer other on-air exposure for the fight, according to Pacquiao promoter and Top Rank Inc. president Bob Arum.

While Showtime is distributing the scheduled March 12 Miguel Cotto-Ricardo Mayorga PPV boxing event as well as Pacquiao-Mosley in May, HBO – which has been the anchor for the PPV boxing category for nearly a decade and the distribution arm for Pacquiao’s biggest PPV fights — has yet to step into the PPV ring in 2011.

Still, HBO Sports senior vice president Mark Taffet says he’s confident that the network will be able to develop enough quality PPV events to keep pace with its recent yearly performances.

“PPV boxing is very fluid and we should always evaluate the year at the end of December, not January,” he said. “As evidenced by our track record we have every expectation that 2011 will be another successful year with a full slate of activity.”

Over the last three years HBO has generated for the cable industry 10.5 million PPV boxing buys and $556 million in revenue, the lion’s share of that generated from fights featuring Pacquiao and undefeated world champion Floyd Mayweather Jr.

If Pacquiao fights twice in 2011 as he’s more or less averaged over the past three years – and with Mayweather’s future uncertain due to personal legal issues – it will be very difficult for HBO to match or surpass 2010’s 3.7 million PPV buys over six PPV boxing events.

There aren’t enough marquee boxers ready to step into Pacquiao or Mayweather’s PPV shoes.

Of course a Pacquiao-Mayweather fight, however unlikely, could make HBO’s PPV boxing year in one huge, potentially record-breaking night.

That’s assuming HBO gets to distribute it.