Showtime Networks Inc. finally announced last week its
plans to distribute a Jan. 16 Mike Tyson-Frans Botha heavyweight fight via pay-per-view,
but some operators are concerned that there may not be enough lead time to promote the
Although Showtime's PPV arm, Showtime Event
Television, will offer the fight, the company has yet to reach a carriage deal with
Viewer's Choice. Given the marketing-laden rate cards for past Tyson's fights,
operators are worried that they won't be able to squeeze in enough marketing to
generate a decent split on what is expected to be one of the biggest-grossing PPV events
of the year.
The fight, which will most likely retail for $45.95, will
be Tyson's first since regaining his license from the Nevada Athletic Commission last
October. Mark Greenberg, executive vice president of corporate strategy and communications
for Showtime, said the company is negotiating with Viewer's Choice and Action
Pay-Per-View for distribution of the event, and expects a deal to be completed by this
Michael Klein, senior vice president of programming for
Viewer's Choice, confirmed negotiations with Showtime, but would not comment further.
Representatives from Action PPV could not be reached for
comment by press time.
While Greenberg would not reveal specifics of the rate
card, he did say that he expected both Viewer's Choice and cable operators to support
the event through aggressive marketing efforts.
In the past, Showtime has asked operators to execute a
number of marketing tactics just to maintain a 50 percent split of Tyson fight revenues.
For Tyson's June 1997 fight against Holyfield, for example, operators had to run 500
cross-channel spots, among other actions.
"There hasn't been any real big PPV events in a
while," Greenberg said. "We need Tyson and the business needs Tyson, so I hope
the industry is prepared to support this through investment spending, because without it,
the event doesn't work."
But with only four weeks to market the event, operators are
worried that they won't have the inventory to meet all the necessary marketing
"I hope SET realizes that we only have a month to
market this fight, along with all the other PPV events coming up," said one top 10
MSO PPV executive.
Indeed, along with Tyson, operators also have to market a
Jan. 23 Larry Holmes-George Foreman fight, as well as World Championship Wrestling and
World Wrestling Federation events.
But Ted Hodgins, manager of PPV for Media General Cable of
Fairfax, Va., said that the system would make the necessary marketing adjustments given
the revenue opportunities the Tyson event presents.
"It'll be tough, but this will be the biggest
event of the year revenue-wise," Hodgins said. "You have to pull out all the
stops for this one."
Given the enormous amount of media coverage that will
surround the fight, some industry executives feel operators won't have any problems
getting the word out despite the short marketing window.
"This [fight] is not a surprise, and the reality is
the last three weeks will generate a major marketing push for the fight," Greenberg
"A lot of PPV buys are impulse anyway, and anything
involving Tyson is going to generate a lot of media attention," said Pam Burton,
director of marketing for Prime Cable. "I think we'll have enough time to
promote the fight."
Greenberg also said he isn't worried about
Tyson's potential legal problems affecting the event. Tyson, on parole from an
Indiana prison after serving time on a rape conviction, could be sent back to jail if a
court determines that he violated the terms of his parole. Tyson recently pleaded no
contest in a Maryland court to beating two pedestrians involved in a car accident with the
fighter last February.
"[The issue] has been blown a little out of proportion
by some people in the press," Greenberg said.