Showtime Sports recently announced it will telecast a big June 13 Deontay Wilder-Eric Molina heavyweight championship fight, but boxing fans are still talking about the mega May 2 Floyd Mayweather-Manny Pacquiao pay-per-view event Showtime co-promoted with HBO.
Showtime Sports executive vice president and general manager Stephen Espinoza discusses the record breaking PPV results of the event with Multichannel News programming editor R. Thomas Umstead. Espinoza also talks about Mayweather’s future in the ring, including a potential rematch with Pacquiao.
An edited version of the interview appears below.
MCN: Did the fight meet your PPV performance expectations?
Stephen Espinoza: It far exceeded our expectations, even what we were expecting late in the week. We were monitoring pre-buys all week but there was nothing in the ballpark to compare it to … they were so high we couldn’t use it to extrapolate any numbers. We were largely flying blind.
MCN: Were you surprised with the significant amount of day of buys for the fight despite heavy promotion to drive pre-buys?
SE: We were. One of the elements that made it hard to predict was that we did message so heavily on early buying by the viewer to avoid technical difficulties, so we weren’t sure how much of the early activity was in response to that messaging and how much was genuine overall excitement and enthusiasm for the fight. I guess our first real indication that there was a huge expansion of the audience was during the telecast itself when we starting getting some reports that some operators were experiencing technical difficulties processing the huge volume of orders that were coming in on Saturday evening. Ultimately we were able to buy some time by stalling the main event and that hopefully that allowed everything to get cleared up in time for a successful main event telecast.
MCN: Did everything go as well as expected behind the scenes?
SE: It was a tremendous amount of work by a tremendous amount of people in a very short period of time. To have not just the two networks (co-fight promoters HBO and Showtime) but also two fighter promotional groups come together, learn how to work together and execute this huge event in a period of eight or nine weeks was a daunting task. But I think the telecast and the PPV results speak for themselves. I have nothing but praise for everyone who worked on this event.
MCN: So put the fight’s PPV performance in perspective: what does the event’s 4.4 million buys and more than $400 million mean for the future of the sport?
SE: What it means for the fight and the sport is sort of a new measuring stick for mainstream appeal of boxing. It’s been decades since the sport has received this level of attention and maybe not even then. To be able to capture the imagination and attention of the mainstream audience in such a short period of time on a very, very busy sports weekend speaks volumes about the continued appeal of this sport. Having said that, not every fight is going to be Mayweather/Pacquiao, but for the right matchups there’s still tremendous appeal and demand for boxing.
MCN: What do you say to the folks who say the fight itself was lackluster and failed to live up to the hype?
SE: When you’re dealing with two elite athletes like Mayweather and Pacquiao the distinction and separation in skill between them is going to be relatively minute. These are the two best fighters in the world, so you can look at that and realize that it was very unlikely that there was going to be a knockout. Having said that, there was plenty of action throughout the fight and there was risk on both sides. The fight had thrilling moments – there was plenty for the casual fan and for the hard core fan. Those who were looking for a brutal slugfest were obviously disappointed, but anyone who appreciates the skill and technical prowess that’s required at the highest levels of boxing was treated to a unique and perhaps once in a lifetime exhibition of that.
MCN: Mayweather has one more fight on his six-fight deal with Showtime. Have you begun to think about the next fight?
SE: Yes. Floyd has continued to tell us that he intends to fight Sept. 12 and that it will be the last fight of his career. So we are beginning the very preliminary preparations for exactly that. We will be getting into discussions about an opponent for him very quickly. We will look to ride the momentum of this event and capitalize on the fact that Floyd has now distinguished himself as the fighter of his era.
MCN: Any thought whatsoever about a possible Mayweather-Pacquiao rematch?
SE: I think we have to remain open to it. There’s a lot of chatter on both sides about the possibility – once Manny successfully recovers from [shoulder] surgery, if there a demand and if Floyd is still active or would consider coming back to being active then it would be a topic of conversation. But it will be driven by demand.