Showtime is hoping for big pay-per-view numbers for its June 6 Floyd Mayweather-Logan Paul exhibition fight as it looks to draw both Mayweather’s traditional boxing fans and Paul’s social media followers. The network in August will again look to tap into the Paul social media mystique as the network distributes Jake Paul’s Aug. 28 boxing match against UFC fighter Tyron Woodley.
Showtime Sports President Stephen Espinoza spoke to me on the eve of the Mayweather-Paul fight about the network’s decision to distribute boxing matches featuring the Paul brothers. Espinoza also talks about the potential PPV performance of the events as well as potential backlash from boxing purists revolving around the network’s association with non-traditional boxing events. An edited version of the interview appears below.
Picture This: What attracted Showtime to the Floyd Mayweather-Logan Paul exhibition fight?
Stephen Espinoza: The Logan Paul-Floyd Mayweather event was sort of a no brainer for us, given our history and track record of success with Floyd Mayweather. He's the one who came up with the concept, made the arrangements, and then brought the fight to us. That was a relatively easy decision. In the grand scheme of things, I don't think that we want to be in the position of turning our nose up at what could be a new trend in the sport. I certainly think it's important for our credibility that we be honest about what this is -- it isn’t a championship level, elite boxing competition. This is a spectacle and an event featuring a retired Floyd Mayweather coming out of retirement to do an exhibition. It’s about fun and about something unexpected. It’s a different flavor of combat sports than we’ve done before, but it certainly is something that has attracted more than its fair share of interest from the audience.
PT: Does the event have a chance of hitting the industry’s gold standard of 1 million PPV buys?
SE: I certainly think this has the potential. There aren’t many personalities in the world with the following that Logan Paul has. When you're talking about the pay per view business, the ability to bring a built in audience to the table is really an attractive factor in the whole mix. I think it’s really the combination of a few things: the chance to see perhaps the greatest living boxer back into the ring and performing at some level again; the intrigue of seeing how a younger, bigger, stronger, opponent would do against a Mayweather who's been retired for almost five years; and just the melding of two worlds and two huge fan bases from very different demographics. I don't know if this is a once in a lifetime thing, but in terms of commercial attractiveness and financial viability, again, it was a no brainer. This thing was definitely going to attract a lot of attention, and it was definitely going to do business. Given our relationship with Mayweather it was an immediate yes for us.
PT: Showtime is planning to distribute Logan Paul’s brother Jake Paul’s August boxing event against UFC fighter Tyron Woodley. With now two PPV events featuring non-traditional boxers, are you concerned about potentially turning off fight fans going forward?
SE: We have to be protective of our credibility and our reputation. We’ve worked 35 years to establish ourselves as the most experienced and credible boxing outlet in the sport, and we certainly wouldn’t sacrifice that for anyone. So obviously we believe that the two can co-exist side-by-side. We’ve seen this sort of crossover before -- we've seen UFC stars and WWE stars crossover. Even [TNT's The Match golf event] with Aaron Rogers, Tiger Woods and Tom Brady is a crossover event. No one looks at a golf event featuring Rogers, Brady and Phil Mickelson, or looks at Charles Barkley and Tony Romo playing in a golf tournament at Lake Tahoe and calls it an affront to The Masters tournament or that it is somehow an insult to what professional golfers do on the PGA Tour. The audience is smart enough to know the difference. We do high level MMA, we do championship boxing, we do premium sports documentaries like The Kings, and we’re in the midst of this spectacle. So for those who are worried about [Mayweather-Paul] diverting resources or attention from other events, I say we can do these things side-by-side. In the long run we believe that this is just broadening the tent and extending the potential universe of boxing fans. If they come through the door for a Logan Paul or Jake Paul event and become boxing fans, I think that’s a positive thing for the sport and certainly a positive thing for the network.
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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.