Election Day yielded disastrous returns for operators
desperately seeking a major pay-per-view fight to salvage their 1998 PPV budgets.
TVKO last Tuesday announced the postponement of its highly
anticipated Nov. 21 Oscar De La Hoya-Ike Quartey PPV fight due to an injury to De La Hoya.
And earlier that day, operators lost out on a potential Mike Tyson fight for December
after reports surfaced that he is instead slated to fight Jan. 16.
The news destroyed any hopes that operators had of
salvaging their PPV budgets this year. With the loss of De La Hoya and Tyson fights, 1998
will most likely go down as one of the worst years for PPV-boxing revenue this decade.
Top Rank Inc. set Feb. 13 as the new date for the De La
Hoya-Quartey fight, after De La Hoya pulled out of the scheduled Nov. 21 date due to a cut
above the right eyelid. It marked the second time that De La Hoya has postponed a proposed
PPV event this year: The "Golden Boy" postponed a June event after he injured
De La Hoya did fight on PPV in September, against Julio
Cesar Chavez. That fight, which generated about $25 million in PPV revenue, now stands to
be the most lucrative bout of the year.
TVKO was expected to launch a major promotional campaign
for the De La Hoya-Quartey fight, playing off the political election season, including
using former President Dwight Eisenhower's popular slogan, "I like Ike," in ads
promoting the undefeated Quartey.
"When you're selling an event like De La Hoya-Quartey
as one of the biggest welterweight fights of the year, you have to have both fighters at
the top of their athletic ability before they step in the ring," said Mark Taffet,
senior vice president of programming and operations for TVKO. "We will now spend our
time informing the public of the significance of the fight."
For operators, the De La Hoya postponement was the latest
in a series of disappointments for the category this year. Many operators had budgeted for
at least three major PPV-boxing events this year, including a heavyweight fight featuring
champion Evander Holyfield or champion Lennox Lewis and, possibly, Tyson.
But the year only produced two PPV fights that earned as
much as $9 million -- the September De La Hoya-Chavez bout and a March Chavez-Miguel Angel
Gonzalez bout that grossed $9 million. A proposed June Holyfield-Henry Akinwande fight was
postponed indefinitely after Akinwande contracted hepatitis B.
Overall, the genre will generate less than $50 million this
year -- about equaling what boxing earned in 1990. But there were only 15 million
addressable households passed that year, or less than one-half of the 31 million today.
Further, this year's numbers are well short of 1997's
record-setting $232 million mark.
"There go my PPV projections out the window," one
top 10 MSO PPV executive said. "We may have had a shot at meeting budget projections
with the De La Hoya fight."
"Any time De La Hoya fights, he's a big draw for us,
so any postponement is met with a certain degree of disappointment for us," said
Jerry McKenna, vice president of strategic marketing for Cable One.
Any operator hopes of a December Tyson fight were dashed
last week, when sources close to the situation said Tyson is tentatively scheduled to
fight Jan. 16, potentially against Frans Botha.
While Showtime Event Television representatives confirmed
that the network is looking at a January date, no official site or opponent has been set.