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A Quarter Century of PPV Events In Demand

Pay-per-view event distributor In Demand has delivered thousands of live PPV events over that last 25 years that have provided some very compelling — and often forgettable — television moments.

A few events serve as standard bearers for the category due either to their buy-rate and revenue performances or to the influence they’ve had on today’s sports and on-demand landscape. In recognition of In Demand’s 25th anniversary and in no particular order, here are several PPV events that have left an indelible mark on the category.

UFC 100–Eight years after the industry-scorned Ultimate Fighting Championship returned to PPV, the controversial mixed-martial arts franchise broke the industry’s mythical 1 million buy mark for the first time with its UFC 100 PPV event last year. The UFC, which was pulled off of PPV channel lineups in the late 1990s due to the sport’s perceived violent nature, is now among the industry’s most lucrative PPV event franchises.

Holyfield-Foreman–The 1992 Evander Holyfield-George Foreman heavyweight title fight is looked upon by many industry executives as the event that launched the current era of PPV. It was the first event distributed by Home Box Office’s then PPV arm TVKO and was the first event to receive a cohesive, national industry-wide marketing and promotional effort.  The fight was also the first event to break the $50 million PPV revenue mark, generating over 1.4 million buys.

Wrestlemania–The World Wrestling Entertainment’s Wrestlemania franchise has been a PPV event staple since its first launched in 1984. Wrestlemania showed the industry that the WWE’s mix of strong storylines, larger-than-life athletes, celebrity appearances and lots of in-ring action was a recipe for PPV success. Every yearsince its launch, Wrestlemania has finished among the top grossing PPV events for the industry.

De La Hoya-Mayweather–The only PPV event to draw more than 2 million purchases, the 2007 fight between PPV’s “Golden Boy” and the industry’s “money” man proved that the category could still capture the public’s attention and dollars amid a very competitive home entertainment landscape. The fight’s success ushered in a current three-year succession of 1 million-buy fights — most of which featuring Mayweather or Manny Pacquiao in the main event.

The PPV Olympics-On paper, the 1992 PPV Olympics project ranks as one of the biggest revenue and performance busts in pay-per-view history. But Cablevision’s innovative three-channel PPV event paved the way for NBC’s multi-platform distribution of the Summer and Winter Olympics more than a decade later.

The Holyfield-Tyson bouts-The clash of two of the PPV industry’s heavyweight champions was bound to make PPV revenue history, but the two fights between Evander Holyfield and Mike Tyson also altered the face and image of PPV years after both fighters were past their prime. Both bouts rank among the top 10 highest-grossing PPV events of all time, but the Holyfield-Tyson fights will probably most be remembered for “the bite.” Tyson’s biting of Holyfield’s ear in their second fight at the time gave both the sport of boxing and the PPV event category a major black eye.

NFL Sunday Ticket–DirecTv’s unprecedented pay-per-view/subscription sports package inevitably put the satellite company on the PPV map and forever changed the sports television landscape. Sunday Ticket’s debut in 1995 gave displaced fans an opportunity to watch their favorite football team’s games from anywhere in the country. The package also pushed the PPV event category’s relevance beyond boxing and wrestling. While In Demand would gain distribution access to similar packages from Major League Baseball, the National Basketball Association and the National Hockey League, the popular NFL Sunday Ticket live game package remains available only to DirecTv subscribers.

Miss Howard Stern-When radio shock jock Howard Stern proposed a New Year ’s Eve PPV show in 1993, most of the industry treated it as niche event that would just generate a small amount of revenue mostly from Stern’s most devoted fans. But the event generated $14 million in PPV event dollars, a record for a non-ring sports PPV event. Stern’s relentless promotion of the show over his then nationally syndicated morning radio show drew more attention to the event than any operator could through traditional PPV event tactics. Stern laid the groundwork for the non-traditional, new media marketing strategies that HBO PPV and other distributors are currently employing for today’s PPV events.