Showtime Tests Webcasts with Tyson


Showtime Networks Inc. may look to further maximizeawareness of and revenue from pay TV and pay-per-view fights through the Internet afterreviewing the results of this past Saturday's (Oct. 23) Mike Tyson-Orlin NorrisWebcast.

As the number of households with high-speed modemscontinues to increase with the advent of digital technology -- allowing Internet users toview live events in real-time -- event distributors such as Showtime will look to tap thepotential of the Internet as an ancillary revenue stream.

The network, for example, distributed the Tyson-Norris bout-- Showtime pay TV's first live Tyson telecast -- to high-speed broadband users at asuggested price of $16.99. The bout took place after press time.

The Webcast provided viewing of the fight in real-time, aswell as the ability to see the event from several different camera angles, Showtimeexecutive vice president of corporate strategy and communications Mark Greenberg said.

Showtime also offered the fight to narrowband, dial-upmodem surfers at a retail price of $6.99, Greenberg said. As part of the Webcast,consumers were expected to hear comments from both corners between each round.

Greenberg didn't provide a revenue projection from theWebcasts, but he did say the company would consider future opportunities to provide dualpay TV or PPV and Internet distribution for fights or other special events.

The network provided streamed video over the Internet forthe 1998 Evander Holyfield-Vaughn Bean bout, but Greenberg said the technology hasadvanced to the point where it can now be viewed as a potential revenue opportunity.

"The technology has changed radically in a short time,so we need to understand better the potential of the technology," Greenberg said."There are 43 million PCs, and 30 million of those have Internet capability. Itprovides us with another way to build the category."

The Webcasts also allowed Showtime to further expose Tysonto the public. The former heavyweight champion hadn't fought since January, when helooked rusty in defeating Francois Botha. Tyson recently served less than four months of aone-year prison term after a road-rage assault.

Although Greenberg hasn't ruled out a potential Tysonfight in December or January, he said the fighter would most likely return sometime in2000 in a PPV event.

"I think [the Showtime and Web exposure] is a greatway to get him back out in the marketplace," Greenberg said. "Our next event[with Tyson] most likely will be a PPV event with a meaningful opponent."