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ESPN Not Bloodied by PPV Boxing

Kicking off what could be a strong quarter for the pay-per-view boxing category, ESPN’s April 23 inaugural event punched its way to 150,000 buys, according to industry observers.

The $29.95 card -- which featured former three-time world champion Shane Mosley, as well as up-and-coming fighters Antonio Margarito and Kermit Cintron -- was ESPN’s first foray into the PPV-boxing-distribution ring.

Helping to boost the show’s performance was its unusually low price -- most PPV-boxing events retail around $39.95-$49.95 -- as well as the network’s in-house marketing efforts, including multiple ads on ESPN-owned networks, its ( Internet site and its ESPN radio network, according to ESPN senior vice president of broadband and interactive sales Matt Murphy.

“Clearly, the $29.95 pricing resonated with viewers, as well as the excellent fight card,” Murphy said. “The hard-core fans, as well as casual boxing fans, recognized the value of the event.”

Murphy is hoping to generate even more PPV buys for the event over the next three weeks through operator and satellite-provider PPV replays. ESPN2 will rebroadcast the card in June.

Boxing fans will also be able to see a replay of the fight through, where Murphy said the company pulled a generous number of buys, although he would not reveal specifics. “We’re very pleased with the results of the online performance,” he added.

With its first PPV event under its belt, Murphy said, ESPN will return to the ring later this year with another event, although it was too early to provide dates or fighters.

While ESPN works on its next card, Home Box Office and Showtime Networks Inc. will distribute several PPV events over the next two months.

Showtime is offering its May 7 Jose Luis Castillo-Diego Corrales pay TV telecast via PPV for non-Showtime subscribers, and it is expected to distribute former heavyweight champion Mike Tyson’s return to the ring in June.

HBO PPV is scheduled to distribute a May 14 Felix Trinidad-Winky Wright middleweight bout, as well as a June 25 Arturo Gatti-Floyd Mayweather event.