Showtime Sunday (Aug. 29) will distribute its second pay-per-view boxing event featuring YouTube stars Jake and Logan Paul, when Jake Paul steps into the ring with former mixed martial arts champion Tyron Woodley.
The fight comes on the heels of Showtime's June 6 PPV event pitting Logan Paul against retired former boxing champion Floyd Mayweather. Showtime Sports President Stephen Espinoza spoke to me about Showtime's decision to distribute the event as well as his thoughts on how well the event will perform in an edited version of the interview.
Picture This: Are you defining the Jake Paul-Tyron Woodley fight as an exhibition fight or a true professional boxing match?
Stephen Espinoza: Paul versus Woodley is a sanctioned professional, fully competitive fight. We're describing it is part of a different genre. Obviously it's slightly different from the championship level boxing that Showtime's been known for for the last 35 years, but that doesn't mean that we shouldn't be doing it. This is something which is obviously generating a large amount of attention, and we’re featuring fully competitive bouts. Jake has shown himself to be pretty skilled for someone at his level of interest, so we see this as part of the broader mission to expand the entire breadth of the combat sports world.
PT: Are you concerned that by expanding the combat sports world you might be alienating the traditional boxing fan that has supported the pay-per-view boxing industry over the years?
SE: To be honest I understand the traditionalists and the boxing purists who may not view this as their cup of tea, and that's fine. I think the reason that isn't problematic is because we're certain that this can live side by side with what our core business has been for the past 35 years. So just in the same way that Mayweather versus Logan didn't take away any resources or any budget for our championship level boxing, the same is true for Jake Paul. We've had an incredibly busy and strong schedule -- I'd say the strongest of any platform in professional boxing -- and so we're able to simultaneously do a sort of non-traditional type of event as well. So again, we are very confident that the two can live side by side with each other. If people are interested in these types of events, then the opportunity is there to watch them. If they're not and they'd prefer to stick with the traditional box events, then we have plenty of those as well.
PT: You mentioned the Mayweather-Paul fight. Do you know how many PPV buys that fight generated?
SE: It’s right at a million -- within 10,000 to 20,000 [buys] either way -- but buys are still trickling in.
PT: Can this fight perform in that neighborhood without the attraction of a former boxing champion like Mayweather?
SE: We’d be thrilled if it approached those numbers, but it's tough to compare anything to Floyd Mayweather. Floyd is a singular personality and one of the most compelling combat sports figures of his generation. There hasn't been anybody like him before, and it’ll probably be a long time before there's someone like him, so I hesitate to make any comparisons. What we've seen from Jake's first three events is that he is very capable of driving business, particularly on his last event against [Ben Askren] where he was the main event of a pay-per-view headliner that did healthy mid six-figure [buy] numbers. We're confident that we can generate at least that going forward with this event.
PT: Is Showtime looking at any other PPV events for the rest of the year?
IE: I think we were looking at at least one more pay-per-view event before the end of the year, and possibly two. Jake would very much like to do one more fight before the end of the year, and we're also anticipating another pay-per-view event with Gervonta Davis, whose last fight at the end of June was a very successful pay-per-view event for us. We also have our typically busy Showtime championship schedule which includes big events throughout the third and fourth quarter.
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.
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