HBO will look to close out a successful year for the pay-per-view boxing category this Saturday (Nov. 23) with its Manny Pacquiao-Brandon Rios event from China.
The bout, to retail for a suggested $59.95 for a standard-definition feed and $69.95 in high-definition, will feature Pacquiao in a must-win fight against tough, young contender Rios. Pacquiao, once the industry’s pound-for-pound PPV champion, has lost two of his last big events, including a spectacular one-punch knockout loss to Juan Manuel Marquez last November.
While the Pacquiao-Marquez and the June 2012 Pacquiao- Bradley fights averaged 1 million buys each, it’s unclear whether the former champion still has enough juice to reach PPV boxing’s gold standard.
HBO PPV senior vice president Mark Taffet said Pacquiao’s PPV prowess — 17 events generating more than 11 million buys — should continue through this fight. “Manny Pacquiao is a proven pay-per-view superstar, and we believe this high-stakes welterweight fight has unique appeal and is a great event for both the fans and the industry,” he said. “We are very excited about the Pacquiao-Rios fight on HBO PPV.”
If Pacquiao-Rios approaches 1 million buys, that should be enough for the boxing category to match or surpass the nearly 4 million buys generated by the category in 2012. Showtime’s Sept. 14 Floyd Mayweather- Canelo Alvarez bout generated more than 2.2 million buys while Mayweather-Guerrero pulled in 1 million buys. HBO’s Oct 12 Timothy Bradley-Marquez fight generated approximately 350,000 buys according to industry observers.
The category, though, lost a potentially lucrative December PPV fight card when Showtime moved its Dec. 14 Adrian Broner-Marcos Maidana welterweight championship fight from PPV to the premium channel.
Showtime executive vice president Stephen Espinoza said the network — already concerned about putting a PPV fight on during the holiday season, just less than a month after HBO’s Pacquiao-Rios contest — decided to shift the telecast after the Victor Ortiz-Alfonso Gomez undercard fight was cancelled due to an injury to Gomez.
“Our goal is to try to put as much programming on Showtime, as opposed to PPV,” he said. “We knew all along that December is a challenging time of the year to do a PPV event, and when the Ortiz fight fell out it gave us an opportunity to reconsider what we were doing.”
Espinoza said the move to Showtime will give boxing fans another opportunity to watch the up and coming welterweight champion Broner before he becomes a major PPV attraction.
“If Bronner-Maidana was any other time of the year, it definitely would have done at least 300,000 PPV buys, but because of the holidays and the fourth of four boxing PPVs, it didn’t make sense at this point of the year. Ultimately it ended up a win-win for everybody, particularly the network when you look at how well Adrian rates on Showtime.”
As for 2014, Espinoza said the network plans to offer Floyd Mayweather PPV fights on May 3 and Sept. 13.
Showtime also expects Alvarez to fight at least three times in 2014, the first of which will be March 8 on PPV, according to Espinoza.
HBO hopes its Nov. 23 event involving PPV draw Manny Pacquiao will close out a strong year for the category.