ESPN Plus Saturday (Nov. 20) will distribute its first ever exclusive pay-per-view boxing event as it teams with boxing promotion company Top Rank to offer the Terence Crawford-Shawn Porter welterweight championship event.
The PPV event, which retails at a suggested price of $69.99, follows the streaming service's strategy of exclusively distributing the UFC's monthly mixed martial arts PPV events. ESPN VP of programming and acquisitions Matt Kenny discusses the decision to secure exclusive PPV rights for Crawford-Porter and the streaming service's future PPV boxing plans, as well as the performance of last month's Tyson Fury-Deontay Wilder III PPV boxing event . An edited version of the story appears below.
Picture This: How significant for ESPN Plus is securing exclusive pay-per-view rights for a major boxing event?
Matt Kenny: I think this is a great example of just how dynamic our relationship is with Top Rank. We're very opportunistic about each and every one of the cards that Top Rank stages and promotes on our platforms. We’re laser focused on serving fans, and the opportunity to bring Crawford and Porter together exclusively on ESPN Plus pay-per-view is just a great opportunity for us.
PT: Is it possible that some potential PPV fight buys could be left on the table by not offering this fight through other traditional PPV distribution outlets?
MK: We have a lot of experience doing exclusive pay-per-views with the UFC. At the end of the day, we want to create the best possible experience for fans on our platforms. ESPN Plus is an incredible product -- we have more than 17 million subscribers as was reported during our last earnings call. At those type of numbers, we're proud of the product that is available to fans. Over the last couple of years, ESPN Plus has become a really vibrant environment for combat sports fans. We think an event like Crawford-Porter not only super serves the combat sports fan, but certainly has crossover appeal to general sports fans that are already on our platform watching other content.
PT: Will PPV buys for Crawford-Porter match or surpass what ESPN Plus has done for some of its top-performing, exclusive UFC PPV events?
MK: We certainly don't get into projections. This is our first exclusive ESPN Plus PPV boxing event with Top Rank, and as I mentioned earlier I feel really optimistic that we're going to have a very successful night and more importantly deliver a fight that sports fans are really going to appreciate.
PT: ESPN and Fox Sports co-distributed the third Tyson Fury-Deontay Wilder fight last month. How did that event performed and will ESPN and Fox Sports work together on future PPV boxing events?
MK: We were very pleased with the results of Fury-Wilder III, both quantitatively and qualitatively. That was the second event that we partnered with Fox Sports, and the collaboration between the teams was incredible. We all left that experience hoping that we'd have the opportunity to do it again at some point down the road. Those fights were wonderful examples of different media companies coming together and actually creating something special in an industry that is usually regarded for not necessarily having folks play nice in the sandbox. We’re proud to shatter that traditional dogma, and if the opportunity presents itself to work together again down the road, we’d certainly take a look at it.
PT: How aggressive will ESPN Plus be on the PPV boxing front in 2022?
MK: We're going to continue to be opportunistic and evaluate opportunities as they become available. We have the flexibility to be nimble, so as things materialize in this very dynamic sport we could respond appropriately to better serve fans as well as help drive shareholder value and hit our company goals and objectives.
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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.