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TVKO Looks Past De La Hoya Scheduling Snafu

TVKO is confident a competing Showtime boxing card won't hurt pay-per-view buys for its June 23 Oscar De La Hoya-Javier Castillejo World Boxing Council super welterweight title fight.

The main event of TVKO's $40 De La Hoya-Castillejo PPV card will go head-to-head with at least one of the co-main event bouts on the premium network's slate. The Showtime card features junior welterweight champions Kostya Tszyu and Zab Judah.

But unlike past conflicts between the rival programmers, this scheduling snafu was not the result of one network counter-programming the other.

Initially, both cards were scheduled for June 9. But once Showtime realized that TVKO was going to offer a De La Hoya PPV event that evening, it decided to move its fights to June 23, Showtime executive vice president of corporate strategy and communications Mark Greenberg said.
Then several weeks ago, De La Hoya's camp requested some extra time to train — which forced TVKO to move the PPV fight to June 23, according to Home Box Office senior vice president of sports operations Mark Taffet.

"We moved the fight there because we needed a date," Taffet said. "We didn't move it there knowing that they had moved their fight to that date. Despite that, we have no issue with Showtime."

Said In Demand senior vice president of programming and development Dan York: "It's unfortunate to have a pay TV fight on during a PPV event, but due to the change in dates of the De La Hoya fight, it appears to be unavoidable in this instance."

Taffet said the dueling matches shouldn't have a negative effect on buys for what is an important PPV comeback tilt for De La Hoya. The event is the first PPV appearance for the platform's one-time "Golden Boy" in over a year. It's also the first since De La Hoya lost back-to-back bouts to Felix Trinidad and Shane Mosley.

He's fighting a strong but relatively unknown world champion in Castillejo, which means the fight's ultimate success should be determined by De La Hoya's appeal to PPV viewers.

"I feel that while the Tszyu and Judah event is a quality doubleheader, it's targeted to a niche boxing-fan audience," Taffet said. "The De La Hoya-Castillejo fight will be driven mostly by the Hispanic market that would find the De La Hoya fight more appealing."

But not all PPV executives are totally convinced Showtime's event won't cannibalize buys from TVKO.

"I would rather it not have happened, and there will probably be some erosion of PPV buys," said Cox Communications Inc. San Diego senior product manager Marty Youngman. "But I'm not going to cut back on the marketing of the event because of it."

An East Coast operator who wished to remain anonymous said she expects some cannibalization. But given the small percentage of Showtime subscribers in her system, she said, the effect should be minimal.

While Greenberg doesn't think the scheduling conflict will hurt the ratings performance of Showtime's card, he believes that such conflicts should be avoided for the industry's sake.

"When someone has previously scheduled something on a particular date, you have to make other arrangements," Greenberg said. "As much as I sympathize with the PPV industry, we had vendor issues that we couldn't change."

TVKO and co-promoter Univision, the Spanish-language broadcast network, are aggressively promoting the PPV event. Univision will run a 30-minute, Spanish-language preview show numerous times on its Galavisión cable service, TVKO vice president and general manager Tammy Ross said.

In addition, AOL Time Warner Inc.-owned TVKO has inked a deal with corporate sibling America Online. The Internet service will provide promotion for the fight to its 29 million users beginning this week. AOL will also provide round-by-round voting during the event.

ESPN.com, CNNSI.com and CBSSportsline.com will all offer online fight merchandise giveaways, Ross said. De La Hoya will also appear in online chat sessions for all the services.

"The budget for this fight is as substantial, as for all other past De La Hoya fights," Taffet noted.