Fox Sports continues its busy summer of televising live, marquee sports programming events this Saturday (July 20) as it steps into the pay-per-view boxing ring with the Manny Pacquiao-Keith Thurman welterweight championship boxing card promoted by Premier Boxing Champions. The company is hoping to build on the performance of its March Errol Spence-Mikey Garcia inaugural PPV boxing event, which drew more than 300,000 pay-per-view buys, according to company executives.
Fox Sports executive vice president and head of programming Bill Wanger discusses the company’s strategy in distributing the PPV boxing event, including using its lineup of high-profile summer sports events like the FIFA Women’s World Cup, baseball’s All-Star Game and the U.S. Open Golf Championship to promote Pacquiao-Thurman, which retails at a PPV suggested price of $74.99.
Why does Fox Sports consider the Pacquiao-Thurman fight a marquee pay-per-view event?
Obviously it starts with Manny Pacquiao, who is a living legend in the boxing world, going up against a legit competitor in Keith Thurman. Before [Thurman] was injured [Thurman had elbow surgery in May 2018], he was considered one of the best welterweights in the world. We consider this a heavyweight matchup of welterweights.
What are your PPV buy expectations for Pacquiao-Thurman?
We’re going to do better than Spence-Garcia, our first pay-per-view, which was in the 330,000 [buy] range. We’ll definitely be above that, although we’re not going to release any sort of estimates. To the boxing world -- and even to the casual boxing fan -- Manny versus Keith is a true 50-50 fight where you really don’t know who is going to win. That doesn’t always happen in boxing, so it's pretty special.
The summertime hasn’t been an ideal time to schedule a big pay-per-view fight -- does that concern you at all?
Quite frankly a little bit, but it just worked out in terms of timing from when Manny and Keith’s last fight was [both fighters fought this past January]. We’re coming off of out most-watched month ever across the Fox Sports networks with the [Women’s] World Cup, The US Open, NASCAR and the baseball All-Star game, so we feel we've had a pretty strong promotional platform. We’ve been running the sprockets off of our promo for the fight in those big sports events. We actually ran seven [promotional] elements for the fight during the All-Star Game. On fight night we’re going to have Caleb Plant fighting Mike Lee in a super welterweight fight that will air on Fox broadcast prior to the pay-per-view event starting, so we’re going to have a significant amount of people watching boxing on free television on Fox while promoting the pay-per-view card. That’s fairly unusual for a boxing event.
Is Fox Sports still looking at doing as many as six PP boxing cards in 2019?
Right now we’re looking in the four to five range which could go up. There's been some exciting things that have happened over the past couple of months in boxing where we could do some more potential pay-per-view events, including Andy Ruiz Jr.’s win over [former heavyweight champion] Anthony Joshua, which shocked the world and really attracted alot of casual fans back to boxing. We’ll see how things play out, but I think the future is really bright.
There’s been alot of boxing events distributed on various platforms so far this year. Does the increased exposure of the sport help or hurt Fox Sports’ efforts to develop marquee pay-per-view events?
I think it helps. Just on the various Fox Sports distribution platforms alone we’ve reached close to 20 million people through our live [boxing] events, studio shows and original programming. I think that we’re bringing attention to boxing, and we’re not so concerned about the competition. We’re growing our portfolio of boxing -- on Fox [broadcasting] alone, our [boxing] ratings are up 50% versus what they were a year ago. We’re in a good position.