Record in Sight for Mayweather-McGregor

The heavily hyped Aug. 26 Floyd Mayweather-Conor McGregor pay-per-view boxing match proved to be worth the wait for both distributors and fans, and industry executives said they hope it boosts future pay-per-view boxing and UFC events.

Showtime last Friday reported that the fight, in which boxer Floyd Mayweather improved his record to 50-0 with a 10th round TKO over the game UFC/mixed martial arts champion McGregor — is expected to draw in the “mid to high” 4 million PPV buy range, which would potentially knock out the record 4.6 million buys generated by Mayweather’s 2015 fight with Manny Pacquiao. It could also eclipse the $450 million generated by the Mayweather-Pacquiao bout.

“We consider this a huge success,” Showtime Sports and Event Programming executive vice president and general manager Stephen Espinoza told Multichannel News. “We could very well break the record — we just haven’t seen enough of the data to definitively say that — we’re either over the record or very close. Even if we don’t break the record, it’s still a massive success.”

Some MVPDs were reportedly overwhelmed by a flurry of last-minute fight purchases, to the point where Showtime officials said the Mayweather-McGregor main event was “slowed down” to allow distributors to complete orders. Espinoza, though, said there were no major distributor problems regarding buys. “We didn’t even experience the level of technical issues that we saw on Mayweather-Pacquiao,” he added.

Espinoza also called reports that the network’s new Showtime PPV app suffered major technological problems during the event “exaggerated,” saying that the network only received a “limited” number of complaints, which were quickly addressed. Showtime will provide refunds to those who were unable to see the purchased event, he added.

UFC’s website UFC.TV also struggled to keep up with demand, prompting the company to issue several post-fight statements regarding the issue. UFC said it is reviewing each consumer complaint on a “case-by-case basis,” adding that it was “disappointed by the technical difficulties that were experienced … We are working with our vendor NeuLion to assess exactly what happened.”

UFC president Dana White also said in a statement: “Nothing is more important to the UFC than our fans. They’ve always been incredibly loyal and supportive, and we’ll always take care of them.”

Some 3 million viewers watched the fight illegally, according to video security company Irdeto. Espinoza admitted that it was nearly impossible to totally eliminate illegal viewing of the fight given its magnitude.

“Like all events with this kind of appeal, we’re going to have people who will try to view it illegally,” he said. “We took, along with our partners, unprecedented action both before and during the fight to block and remove as many of the illegal streams as possible. ”

Despite the online problems, most industry observers said the fight inside the ring was better than expected, with UFC champion McGregor holding his own in his first ever boxing match, and will easily finish as the year’s most lucrative PPV event.

Former HBO head of pay-per-view Mark Taffet said the fight will generate significant momentum for both the PPV boxing and UFC categories. Both sports have PPV events scheduled over the next two weeks: The UFC will distribute its Sept. 9 UFC 215 pay-per-view event featuring Demetrious Johnson and Ray Borg, while HBO will offer its Sept. 16 Canelo Alvarez-Gennady Golovkin bout.

“Mayweather-McGregor clearly exceeded fans’ expectations, and that is great news for both boxing and UFC,” Taffet said. “It bodes well for both sports, and I think it’s one of those great instances in which everyone comes out a winner — boxing, MMA, McGregor, Mayweather and the fans.”

R. Thomas Umstead

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.