Free Bouts Before HBO Event

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In an effort to encourage pay-per-view buys, Home Box Office will offer a free one-hour live boxing card an hour before its July 16 Bernard Hopkins-Jermain Taylor pay-per-view event.

HBO PPV executives say the free preview — running in the clear on most cable systems at 8 p.m. — will include 2004 Olympic boxers Abner Mares and Vicente Escobedo in separate fights.

Typically, HBO airs a pre-produced fight preview show prior to the PPV telecast.

HBO PPV vice president and general manager Tammy Ross hopes customers watching the free preview — which will heavily tout the Hopkins-Taylor bout — will feel persuaded to buy the $49.95 fight after it.

“Hopefully we’ll get people hooked in early who may have been on the fence,” she said. “When you see something and you know its going to turn off in a couple of minutes, hopefully you’ll hit that button and keep going with the event.”

To further encourage viewers, HBO for only the second time in its history will offer the PPV event in high-definition.

HBO also offered its December 2004 Vitali Klitschko-Danny Williams fight in HD.

Ross said the enhanced feed would not add any additional costs to the fight’s suggested retail rate.

“Our feeling is that if we begin to put our programming in HD, people will make the decision to get an HD set and watch the fight,” she said. “Just like in the rest of the television world, if more programming is in HD, then more people will buy HD sets.”

In terms of event promotion, HBO will run several fight ads during ESPN’s July Home Run Derby telecast. “Hopefully buying spots in the home run derby will help the fight hit a home run,” she said.

In addition, ESPN’s July 15 SportsCenter is scheduled to have live coverage of the weigh-in of both fighters and will telecast Friday Night Fights from Las Vegas.

While Ross would not project how well the event will perform, she said the strong performance of several HBO boxing events over the past few months bodes well for the Hopkins-Taylor event.

The company’s June 25 Floyd Mayweather-Arturo Gatti bout generated an unexpected 350,000 buys, while its May fight between Winky Wright and Felix Trinidad garnered a whopping 510,000 buys.

“From March on, every fight that has been on PPV has been tremendous,” she said. “Maybe it’s been the momentum building in boxing that’s kept the business going.”

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