SET Ponders Event Prospects

Mike Tyson's knockout loss to Lennox Lewis may have also turned the lights out on Showtime Event Television's near-term pay-per-view event prospects.

The PPV distributor said it will continue to offer events sans Tyson, who has been the core of its business for years. But, after building a major PPV business around boxers Tyson and now retired junior welterweight champion Julio Cesar Chavez during the mid-1990s, the network has struggled to develop other major money-winning events.

Not counting the June 8 Lewis-Tyson co-promotion with HBO Pay-Per-View, SET has distributed nearly a dozen PPV events over the last three years, but only a handful registered significant PPV business. Five of those events were boxing-related — including Tyson bouts against Andrew Golota and Frans Botha in October 2000 and January 1999, respectively, and a March 2001 John Ruiz-Evander Holyfield match.

Other events, such as a July 2001 event featuring psychic Sylvia Brown, a January 2001 comedy improvisational show featuring Drew Carey and two other fights performed respectfully, but fell well short of the revenue generated from Tyson contests.

Although no events are scheduled, SET executive vice president of corporate strategy and communications Mark Greenberg said the network will continue to develop and distribute PPV events for the industry. But he complained that the industry's current economic structure that essentially gives operators 50 percent of PPV revenues makes it difficult to offer viable events.

"The really cheap ones are easy to do and the big ones are easy to do, but how do you build the middle-performing events into big events?" Greenberg said. "It's hard to build a habit with people when there's no economic advantage for distributors."

"We have a game plan to develop PPV events for the industry," Greenberg added. "The question becomes is the industry willing to share this risk with us?"

While it looks for new events, Greenberg said SET has not completely written off Tyson, although the fighter's PPV appeal has diminished significantly in the wake of his thrashing by Lewis.

Nevertheless, Greenberg believes Tyson still has a PPV future if he continues in the ring. "Mike Tyson has been an enormously important franchise to this category, so we'll let him lick his wounds and see where he wants to go before we decide what's next," he said.

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.