Looking to maximize viewership, Showtime's Feb. 22 Mike Tyson-Clifford Etienne boxing telecast will be simulcast on a pay-per-view basis to non-Showtime subscribers.
Showtime executives believe the fight — Tyson's first since a lopsided loss to Lennox Lewis this past April — can generate incremental PPV revenue for operators despite its simultaneous airing on Showtime's pay TV service.
The event, which will also feature one undercard fight, will retail at a suggested price of $24.95.
"This is not a PPV event, this is a Showtime event," Showtime Sports and Event Programming senior vice president of sales and affiliate marketing Donovan Gordon said. "However, not everyone is a Showtime subscriber or wants to be a subscriber. What we've found in the past is that there are a certain number of people who want to buy the events on an a-la-carte basis and move on."
Indeed, Showtime has offered several of its live Tyson telecasts on a PPV basis with relative success. The last offering, an October 2000 Tyson-Brian Nielsen bout, generated 40,000 buys, sans participation from the industry's leading PPV purveyor In Demand LLC.
But In Demand could be on board for the Tyson-Etienne bout. Network senior vice president of programming and development Dan York said In Demand is "considering" distributing the event, but has yet to reach a deal.
"Showtime has thus far been unable to provide some fundamental information on the event in order for In Demand to consider airing it," he said.
Along with premium and PPV distribution, Gordon said the event will be offered on a limited closed-circuit basis, as well as on PPV in Canada.
The fight may also play an important role in shaping the heavyweight PPV boxing landscape for the remainder of 2003. World Boxing Council heavyweight champ Lewis said last week that he is considering a rematch with Tyson toward the end of the year after he fights one or both of the Klitschko brothers, Wladimir and Vitaly — both of whom are top-ranked heavyweight contenders.
"Tyson is still a draw," Gordon said. "There will be some real interest in this fight, especially considering all the talk about a Lewis-Tyson rematch."
The Tyson-Etienne fight will take place a week before another highly anticipated heavyweight bout between World Boxing Association champion John Ruiz and light heavyweight champion Roy Jones Jr. on March 1.
The fight would be the first major PPV event in years for Jones, arguably pound-for-pound the best fighter in the world.