Showtime Eyes 1M Mayweather-Berto Buys

Showtime Sports will distribute the Sept. 12 Floyd Mayweather-Andre Berto fight on pay-per-view, in Showtime and “Money” Mayweather’s first PPV boxing event since the May 2 Mayweather-Manny Pacquiao fight, which generated a record-setting 4.4 million PPV buys.

The September bout is being billed as Mayweather’s last fight, and it is certainly the last fight in Showtime’s six-bout television agreement with the undefeated boxer.

Showtime Sports executive vice president and general manager Stephen Espinoza spoke with Multichannel News programming editor R. Thomas Umstead about the upcoming fight — which will retail at a suggested PPV price of $64.95 — as well as managing the event’s performance expectations in the shadow of Mayweather-Pacquiao.

Espinoza also reflected on the success of the network’s multifight deal with Mayweather and looked ahead at the coming PPV opportunities.

MCN:There were initial reports that this fight would air on broadcast television via CBS. How did you ultimately come to the decision to distribute it on PPV?

Stephen Espinoza: [Broadcast television] would have been a really interesting and fun way to televise his last fight, but practically speaking, it didn’t work out from a timing perspective. Ad time and sponsor dollars are spent six to eight months in advance, so to try to sell ad time for an event of this magnitude eight to 10 weeks ahead of the event is something that is difficult, particularly when you’re talking late in the third quarter, when so much of the advertiser budget is committed.

MCN:Having said that, you don’t have the typical two to three months of lead time to promote a PPV boxing match and you’re dealing with a relatively unknown opponent in Andre Berto. Can you do an effective job 0f marketing the fight?

SE: We’ve known for a few weeks of the date and the opponent, so we’ve been making those preparations for quite some time. Behind the scenes, from a marketing and promotion perspective, the wheels began turning a long time ago. It’s inevitable that after a mega-fight like Mayweather-Pacquiao, whatever comes next will seem a bit anticlimactic. So we definitely have to work to fight that. In this case, Floyd said this will be his last fight, and he’s been consistently saying that, so the event takes on greater significance.

MCN:Do you have concerns that there may be some viewer fatigue stemming from Mayweather-Pacquiao?

SE: We’re not going to capture that magic on this event, but what we do have in this event is an even greater mainstream awareness of Floyd Mayweather than we did on the last fight.

The choice of Berto as an opponent in part is a response by Floyd to some of the feeling among some fans that there wasn’t enough action and aggressiveness from Pacquiao during the last fight. If there’s one thing that Andre Berto is known for, it’s being an aggressive fighter — his greatest strength is also his greatest weakness in that he has one speed, which is all-out attack. We’ve seen that have some success against Floyd.

MCN:Do you think the fight can reach 1 million buys?

SE: I believe so. We have an incredibly strong undercard, great mainstream awareness among boxing fans generally, and historically September is a very good time for Mayweather pay-per-views because there are other opportunities for cross-promotion through CBS NFL football or CBS college football — there’s a lot more discussion around sports in general than even in May. There’s not a ton of sports competition, but there’s enough that there’s excitement about sports events in general.

MCN:The fight marks the end of your six-fight deal with Mayweather. Is it a bittersweet ending for you?

SE: Yes. The first five fights have really flown by, and looking back we’re all extremely proud of what we’ve done. Floyd has done his part, taking on tough fights, including two guys most people thought he’d never fight [Pacquiao and Canelo Alvarez]. To be sitting here now with nearly 10 million PPV buys through the first five fights with some great moments and telecasts to show for it, we couldn’t be happier with the collaboration.

MCN:What does the future of Showtime PPV boxing look like after Mayweather?

SE: It will be a while for the vacuum to be filled. There’s not an obvious successor to Mayweather’s position as pay-per-view king, but if we look at the history of the sport, the vacuum is always filled. It might be a guy like Dante Wilder, or Keith Thurman or Danny Garcia or somebody that we don’t even see coming. But I have no doubt the vacuum will be filled pretty quickly.

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.