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PPV Seeks a Late Surge

Four marquee boxing and UFC pay-per- view events over the next two months could salvage what has been an otherwise weak year for the category.

After generating more than $500 million in revenue last year — some $400 million from just the May 2, 2015 Floyd Mayweather- Manny Pacquiao welterweight title fight — the live PPV-event category has garnered less than half of that take through the first 10 months of 2016, industry sources said.

Distributors hope a flurry of big PPV events in November and December will help pad the category’s revenue take. The latest addition to the PPV category is the Dec. 30 return of UFC star Ronda Rousey to the octagon, more than a year after her shocking loss to Holly Holm in last November’s UFC 193.


The show joins UFC’s Nov. 12 PPV event from New York’s Madison Square Garden, which will feature popular UFC fighter Conor McGregor. In Demand senior vice president of programming and business development Mark Boccardi said that the appearance of Rousey and McGregor in two of the final three UFC PPV events -- the MMA outfit will also distribute its UFC 206 event on Dec. 10 -- will cap off what has been one of the most lucrative years for the UFC in terms of PPV revenue, although he would not disclose specifics.

“Clearly, this is a year where the UFC is helping the entire category,” Boccardi said. “Everyone sees that boxing is down — we had no Mayweather and one Pacquaio fight so far [this past April against Timothy Bradley Jr.] — so the UFC’s really strong performance is good for the overall health of the business. The events feature two tentpole athletes for PPV in Rousey and McGregor — the two are by far the biggest UFC PPV stars — and the crossover appeal that Ronda has you can’t overstate.”

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Two high-profile PPV boxing events will also take place within two weeks of each other in November. This Saturday ([Nov. 5) Pacquiao will step into the PPV ring for a fight against WBO welterweight champion Jessie Vargas, while Nov. 19 will pit Sergey Kovalev against Andre Ward in a battle of undefeated light heavyweight boxers.

Boxing promotion company Top Rank, which is distributing the Pacquiao-Vargas fight, isn’t concerned about cannibalization, given the back-to-back-to-back marquee PPV events, company president Todd duBoef said.


Top Rank recently turned to the Web to promote the fight. The network last week launched ALL IN: Pacquiao-Vargas, a daily documentary series on Top Rank’s Facebook page and Twitter feed that it said will give boxing fans an inside look at each fighter’s daily preparations.

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HBO will push the lion’s share of its promotional efforts for the Kovalev-Ward fight to the week before the event in an effort to avoid the marketing noise from the Pacquiao-Vargas and UFC 205 events. While there is a concern about potential cannibalization of viewers, HBO vice president of programming Tony Walker said the network is confident its event would appeal to boxing fans looking for a competitive matchup between undefeated fighters.

“There are some [cannibalization] concerns, but we think our fight is of a quality that will make people watch it,” Walker said.