The Sept. 18 Oscar De La Hoya-Felix Trinidad bout was
billed as the fight of the millennium. And from a pay-per-view perspective, it almost
lived up to the hype.
The welterweight-unification bout generated an astounding
1.25 million buys and $64 million in PPV revenue -- both records for a nonheavyweight
Moreover, the fight's controversial outcome -- a Trinidad
victory by majority decision -- has boxing observers and industry executives already
The fight's revenue and buy take eclipsed the previous
nonheavyweight record of 800,000 buys and $34 million in revenue set by the De La
Hoya-Pernell Whitaker bout in 1997. Most analysts thought the fight would be a hit, but it
would fall short of 1 million buys.
De La Hoya-Trinidad also ranks as the third-most-profitable
PPV event in history, behind the two Evander Holyfield-Mike Tyson events.
The fight even beat out the 1.2 million buys and $60
million take from March's Holyfield-Lennox Lewis heavyweight-unification bout.
The event came at a good time for PPV distributor Viewer's
Choice, which recently adopted the In Demand brand.
Senior vice president of marketing and brand director Gavin
Harvey said the fight's performance gave the category a boost, and it would help to
position the new brand. The network ran trade ads associating De La Hoya with In Demand.
"My sense is that everybody was happy with the event,
and its performance will create even more enthusiasm for the future," Harvey said.
"The $64 million question -- can the lighter weight
divisions generate heavyweight numbers -- now has a $64 million answer: a resounding
yes," TVKO senior vice president of programming Mark Taffet added. "Even in our
most optimistic projections, we didn't anticipate the performance that the fight provided
to the industry."
Operators around the country were ecstatic about the
fight's performance. It was the top-performing event of the year for Media General Cable
of Fairfax (Va.), which nearly doubled its original projections.
"There weren't that many PPV fights in 1999, so our
subscribers saved for this event," Media General PPV director Ted Hodgins said.
"We also had a lot of people order the fight who had never ordered a PPV event
Systems in Puerto Rico, Trinidad's homeland, pulled an
incredible 40 percent buy-rate for the event, TVKO said. Several systems in the Southeast
also set PPV records, according to the network.
Cox Communications Inc.'s San Diego system set both PPV buy
and revenue records for the fight, system senior product manager Marty Youngman said,
declining to reveal specific figures. The system was very aggressive in marketing the
fight, developing a promotion to coincide with Hispanic Heritage Week earlier this month,
TVKO vice president and general manager Dan York attributed
the fight's performance to aggressive operator marketing and promotion. The event also
benefited from an unprecedented national marketing campaign that featured such
nontraditional sponsors as Excite.com, McDonald's Corp., MET-Rx USA Inc., Western Union
Holdings Inc. and Puma.
"The PPV business -- given the right product and the
right retailer promotion and sponsorship -- is a very good business," York said.
"Not only did we beat the record for a nonheavyweight fight -- we doubled it."
Industry observers said the fight's PPV success, as well as
its controversial ending, bodes well for a possible rematch. But matching the two fighters
again soon may be difficult, as rival promoters associated with separate television
distributors manage them.
Don King, who has distribution ties with Showtime Event
Television, promotes new champion Trinidad. Industry sources said King may look to pair
Trinidad against World Boxing Association welterweight champion James Page first, via SET
PPV or the Showtime pay service, before any rematch with De La Hoya.
"It's entirely possible that Trinidad could unify the
title next," Showtime Sports and Event programming senior vice president Jay Larkin
said. "Trinidad remains signed to Don King, and King has an outstanding relationship
with Showtime, so we'll be sitting down with Don to see what's next for Trinidad."
While Time Warner Inc., which owns TVKO and Home Box
Office, would like to see a quick rematch, the company -- which has a multifight agreement
with De La Hoya -- could pursue other options. Taffet said De La Hoya could fight former
welterweight champion Ike Quartey or former lightweight champion Shane Mosley.
De La Hoya could also move up a weight class and fight for
the junior middleweight championship. But the most lucrative PPV opportunity is a rematch
"We went into this fight knowing that it had the
potential to become a rivalry," Taffet said. "Given the fight's PPV performance,
we hope to be able to present a rematch soon on TVKO."
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.
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