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Mega-Push Set for Mega-Fight

Television viewers and social-media users will have a tough time avoiding marketing and promotional messages for the May 2 Floyd Mayweather-Manny Pacquiao fight as co-distributors Showtime and HBO flood the airwaves with an unprecedented amount of promotion.

The much-anticipated fight, which is expected to break the all-time PPV revenue record of $152 million generated by the 2013 Mayweather-Canelo Alvarez fight, will benefit from a rush of on-air spots, social-media promos and media messages over the next two weeks, according to executives from both networks. Showtime and HBO are copromoting a PPV event for only the second time, following the 2002 Lennox Lewis- Mike Tyson heavyweight bout.


Neither Showtime nor HBO executives would disclose revenue splits for the fight. Promoters typically keep 55% to 65% of the revenues generated from PPV buys based on the level of marketing a system provides for the fight, but industry observers said the promoter’s percentage for Mayweather-Pacquiao is much higher.

“It’s no secret that these fighters command a big payday, and business-as-usual was not the case for this event, but I think all the operators appreciate the revenue that’s at stake, as well the level of commitment from both networks and the promoters,” Tammy Ross, HBO Sports vice president and general manager, said.

“It’s a deal that’s a very positive one and one that all of us are happy with,” Showtime Sports president Stephen Espinoza added.

With previous fights, operators could choose from different levels of marketing efforts, Ross said. This time, HBO and Showtime allowed affiliates to choose their own marketing plans. The companies would then look at the plans and assess a rate-card split.

“We went out and said, give us your best plan — there were certain components we wanted to see including the early ordering commitment and a commitment to run spots in high-profile programming, but we really left the operators to put together their best plan for how they were going to activate and convert all of the awareness into a buy,” Ross said. “It’s not uniformed by any stretch of the imagination, and we’ve been blown away by the level of participation from the industry.”

While the heart of the fight’s marketing plan kicked in over the weekend, Espinoza said most pay TV distributors began taking orders for the fight weeks ago, even as the networks were hashing out final details of the promotional campaign. Customers usually have to wait until the week of a fight to order the event.

“It wasn’t as quick a process as it normally is, but we knew we would get agreements with operators,” Espinoza said. “Many of the operators began implementing their marketing plans and even taking orders before they had a deal in place. This has been a true collaboration throughout the process.”

Distributors are encouraged to push subscribers to order early to avoid any possible delays in processing a significant number of last-minute buys the night of the fight, Ross said.

“Most every operator has steps in place corporately to address the situation so that they don’t have this mad rush in the final days that will potentially clog the system,” she said.

Some of the key components of the promotional plan are spots on specific programming, as opposed to day parts or networks.

Spots will run in myriad sports events in the week leading up to the fight including the NFL Draft, the NHL and NBA playoffs and the Kentucky Derby, as well as entertainment programming like AMC’s Mad Men, ABC’s Marvel: Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., NBC’s The Blacklist and Discovery Channel’s Deadliest Catch.

Ross said operators had to guarantee spots in some or all of those big events, as well as additional cross-channel avails for frequency.

Other traditional tactics, including on-hold messages when customers call their multichannel- TV provider, are also part of the marketing plan for the fight, according to Ross.

Operators will also get an unprecedented amount of shoulder programming from both networks leading up to the fight.

PPV-event distributor In Demand will offer operators more than 60 different video assets supporting the fight to offer subscribers via on demand and online, including replays of the 2013 Mayweather-Canelo Alvarez bout, the 2011 Pacquiao-Shane Mosley bout and the 2008 Oscar De La Hoya-Pacquiao bout.

HBO and Showtime will also make its respective Mayweather-Pacquiao preview shows available to operators once they’ve aired on the premium networks. In Demand senior vice president of programming and business development Mark Boccardi said the crush of marketing and promotional messages for the fight in the weeks leading up to the fight will be massive.


“There’s so much attention on this fight, whether it’s your traditional operator/promoter support, all the different cable networks covering it from a news perspective or social media, I think there will be more of an awareness going into this fight than there was for any fight before,” Boccardi said.

Ross said the fighters themselves are very active on social media and have millions of active followers, so the networks will work with each camp to develop campaigns for Facebook, Twitter and other platforms as each fighter represents his own brand online.

The networks also created a #battle hashtag on Twitter for fans to select which fighter they think will win.

“Also, every piece of video and live-streamed content is being pushed out on social media platforms and are generating millions of views,” she said.

Both Espinoza and Ross stopped short of projecting how many buys the fight will generate, with Espinoza saying the industry has no historical comparisons on fights that have generated a “meaningful” number of buys this early prior to the event.

“If we chart this against other PPV fights whether they are UFC or WWE, there is no comparison,” Espinoza said. “We’re in a different stratosphere so we’re not sure how to interpret those numbers except to say that it looks really good.”

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.