New York -- Like most who favor the sweet science, count Stephen Espinoza among the crowd that would love to see Floyd Mayweather finally battle Manny Pacquiao.
Speaking at NewBay Media’s The Business of Live Television Summit here Tuesday, Espinoza, executive vice president, general manager Showtime Sports and Event Programming, Showtime Networks, Inc., said “we’re going to make another run at that. It’s something that should happen. I don’t know if it will” of the long-anticipated matchup between “Money” and “Pac Man.”
The fight, which would be pay-per-view gold and likely shatter boxing's $150 million revenue record for Mayweather-Canelo Alvarez, has been scotched in the past over disputes about drug testing methodologies and animus between the would-be participants. However, as Mayweather only has two bouts left on his six-fight contract with Showtime and Pacquiao is also nearing the end of his career, Espinoza remained hopeful that such a mega-bout could happen in 2015 during one of boxing/Mayweather’s May and September windows.
Espinoza, who was interviewed by Multichannel News programming editor, R. Thomas Umstead, said that Mayweather’s most recent fight, another win over Marcus Maidana on Sept. 13 following their earlier confrontation in May, was a win for Showtime from broadcast, event and financial metrics.
He said that when it comes to great athletes – he called Mayweather, the Michael Jordan of boxing – fans only have a relatively short amount of time to appreciate their careers. “Tiger Woods was on top for 10 years; Roger Federer for six. For an athlete to be dominating a sport into his late thirties, to be undefeated for 17 years, to be regarded as one of the top fighters for 13 to 14 years, it’s rare that we get to see that kind of athletic performance.”
He said that Mayweather’s fights have been producing 900,000 to 1 million buys, but revenue have been supplemented by other platforms. Espinoza said theater exhibition of Mayweather-Maidana was "a very big business." Harkening back to the closed circuit days before residential pay-per-view, there were 600 screens in play nationwide for Mayweather-Maidana, two thirds of which were "sold out at $20 a pop."
Espinoza said that exit polling revealed that most who witnessed the bout in the theater setting had visited the cineplex with the expectation to see a film; that two-thirds were not planning to buy the fight at home anyway; and that it was a very young demographic “This did not cannibalize the pay-per-view. This was completely additive,” Espinoza stated.
Similarly, he said Mayweather-Maidana picked up some business from Playstation users: “The fight performed at the upper end of UFC and WWE cards on this platform. Again, this was additive from hard-core gamers.”
As to the value of live sports on Showtime, Espinoza said it’s somewhat difficult to get an exact read on why households subscriber to the premium service.
“We don’t monetize viewers through ads. We don’t know who subscribes for boxing, for Dexter, for Ray Donovan or Homeland. Generally, it’s probably a combination of it all,” he said. “But boxing and MMA appeal to different demos than say RayDonovan. Boxing is slightly younger than the network overall and it’s more ethnic and educated than Showtime as a whole.”
Relative to PPV performance, it’s not only about the buys. “We can’t get Peyton Manning, Michael Phelps or Roger Federer exclusively. But we can get the No. 1 boxer in Floyd Mayweather on our network. Sports has tremendous [promotional] value. Pay-per-view is one of the only times we get to talk to non- subscribers. It provides multiple layers of value for the network.”