For Premium Nets, Saturday Night's Alright for Fighting

Competing Showtime, HBO Bouts Draw Good Buy Rates

Strong performances from competing Sept. 15 Showtime and HBO boxing matches helped usher in what industry observers hope will be an appealing fall and winter schedule for pay-per-view and premium boxing.

HBO’s Julio Cesar Chavez Jr.-Sergio Martinez middleweight PPV fight drew 475,000 PPV buys, according to HBO Sports senior vice president Mark Taffet. A rematch of the Sept. 15 fight — in which Martinez barely survived two knockdowns in the 12th round to win a decision over Chavez Jr. — is being discussed for early 2013.

Showtime’s boxing card, headlined by the Canelo Alvarez-Josesito Lopez super welterweight championship fight, drew more than 1 million viewers — a Showtime record for a boxing card, according to network officials.

Typically, competing Showtime and HBO boxing matches have tended to split the boxing audience. But both Saturday night events generated strong audiences and provided exciting action to boxing fans.

HBO’s Chavez Jr.-Martinez bout was the network’s first PPV bout since June’s Manny Pacquiao- Timothy Bradley Jr. bout. Along with the strong PPV performace, the fight's Sept. 22 replay on HBO drew a respectable 852,000 viewers.

In addition the Sept. 14 final episode of HBO's 24/7 Chavez-Martinez pre-fight series averaged 747,000 viewers – the fifth most watched episode in the history of five-year documentary series.

“On every level the fight exceeded expectations, and left viewers with a 12-round that will be talked about for years to come,” Taffet said. “It reinforced the notion that if you give the fans what they want they will support it in big numbers.”

Currently, HBO has scheduled a Dec. 8 Pacquiao- Juan Manuel Marquez PPV fight, the fourth meeting between the two champions. The two fighters met last November in a PPV bout in which Pacquiao won a very close decision.

That fight drew more than 1.25 million buys, and HBO officials are hoping to repeat that success for the upcoming December PPV bout despite Pacquiao's controversial loss to Bradley this past June.

“Manny Pacquiao’s three fights with Juan Manuel Marquez are legendary in the annals of boxing history,” he said. “I believe fans will evaluate this fight on its own merits, which in this case comprises a legendary trilogy.”

The 1.04 million viewers drawn by Showtime’s Alverez-Lopez fight was the highest viewership for a bout on Showtime, and the second-highest average viewership on the network since 2007, Showtime officials said.

Alvarez stopped Lopez in a fifth-round technical knockout.

“We’ve seen steady increases in viewership for our marquee championship boxing events throughout the year,” Showtime Sports executive vice president and general manager Stephen Espinoza said.

The network hopes to bring Alvarez back for another Showtime event, he said: “It makes perfect sense that the budding star of Canelo Alvarez delivered our best performance thus far. We expect to build on this success with future Canelo fights and, of course, on the incredible lineup we have planned for Showtime Championship Boxing this fall.”

Showtime hopes to continue its boxing ratings success in October with its first-ever four-championship fight card. The Oct. 20 card is headlined by a rematch in Brooklyn, N.Y., between undefeated lightweight champ Danny “Swift” Garcia and challenger Erik “El Terrible” Morales.