HBO PPV Boxing Gets off the Canvas

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HBO will return to the pay-per view
boxing ring Saturday, having survived
one of the greatest challenges to its category
supremacy.

For a while, it looked like Showtime Networks
would dethrone the PPV boxing distribution
champ after the Viacom-owned network teamed
with sister broadcast network and promotional
partner CBS to lure Top Rank’s March 12 Miguel
Cotto-Ricardo Mayorga PPV event — as well as
Top Rank’s May 7 fight featuring boxing’s poundfor-
pound champion Manny Pacquiao against
Shane Mosley — away from HBO, which up to
then had distributed nearly all of the biggest PPV
fight cards over the last decade.

But the network absorbed that blow and countered its competitors
with its own in-house promotional weapons. HBO
teamed with other Time Warner Inc.-owned cable and publishing
outlets to offer boxing promoters the opportunity to
market and promote their PPV boxing events on such highly
distributed networks as CNN, TNT and TBS.

The result is that HBO has once again cornered the marquee
PPV boxing-event market, offering four mega-events in
as many months, beginning with this Saturday’s (Sept. 17)
Floyd Mayweather-Victor Ortiz fight. Promotion for the fight
— Mayweather’s first PPV event this year — is being aided
by CNN’s Saturday midnight repeat telecasts of HBO’s documentary
series 24/7: Mayweather-Ortiz.

HBO will gin up promotion on TBS and TNT
sports programming for the Nov. 12 rubber match
between Pacquiao and Juan Manuel Marquez.
HBO is also expected to tap Time Warner Inc.
cable, publishing and online assets for its Oct.
15 Bernard Hopkins-Chad Dawson bout and its
recently announced Dec. 3 Miguel Cotto-Antonio
Margarito event.

Still, Showtime’s return to the PPV boxing
ring gave the category a much-needed adrenaline
punch, and the hope is that the network
will remain a player in the category going
forward.

It’s going to take a lot of effort from numerous
entities within the PPV boxing world to keep
the sport healthy and financially vibrant, particularly as
competing event categories such as the Ultimate Fighting
Championship and World Wrestling Entertainment continue
to make moves to bolster their fan bases and bring
new viewers — and PPV dollars — to the table.

UFC’s recent seven-year deal with Fox, which includes
four live UFC events a year on the Fox broadcast network
— its first is scheduled against Pacquiao-Marquez — will
bring greater awareness and credibility to the mixed martial
arts outfit, while the WWE is preparing to launch a
24-hour network in 2012, that undoubtedly will serve as
a major promotional vehicle for the sports entertainment
company’s monthly PPV shows.

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