TVKOs Next Pitch: Vargas-Trinidad

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Buoyed by an unexpectedly strong performance from its Nov. 11 Lennox Lewis-David Tua fight, TVKO is aggressively targeting boxing fans and Hispanic viewers for its Fernando Vargas-Felix Trinidad bout on Dec. 2.

The fight, which pits World Boxing Association junior-middleweight champion Trinidad against International Boxing Federation titleholder Vargas, will benefit from a multimedia promotional campaign aimed at the top overall U.S. markets as well as the top Hispanic markets, TVKO vice president and general manager Tammy Ross said.

The push for the event will feature heavy radio play on HBC, the largest U.S. Spanish-language radio broadcaster. The promotional campaign, which will run on 42 HBC stations in the top 13 Hispanic markets, will give away trips, fight premiums and other materials, Ross said.

The highly rated program
Hablando Deportes

will feature daily coverage of Trinidad-Vargas in the weeks leading up to the fight.

TVKO will also run spots on Hispanic-targeted radio stations in the top 21 U.S. markets.

Attempting to reach both the Anglo and Hispanic men aged 18 to 49, TVKO will give away 17 fully paid trips to watch the event in person, Ross said.

Continuing its attempt to reach Hispanic viewers, TVKO reached a deal with Spanish-language TV network Univision to distribute fight-themed specials. The network's two sports services,
Republica

Deportiva

and
Accion Extra
, will show several Vargas/Trinidad related programs including, a replay of last April's Vargas-Ike Quartey bout, and interviews with both Vargas and Trinidad.

For more mainstream audiences, the network will distribute a 30-minute syndicated show previewing the event.

Sister service Home Box Office will interview the fighters as part of its Dec. 1
Boxing After Dark

telecast, Ross said.

The fight will also have a heavy Internet presence. TVKO will partner with boxing Web sites Houseofboxing.com and Fightnews.com, which will both create special sections on their sites about the match-up. Fightnews.com will also give away a trip to the event.

ESPN.com will host a chat with Fernando Vargas during fight week and will feature a photo gallery, fighter bios, and a "tale of the tape" for the fight.

TVKO has also reached a deal involving Houseofboxing.com and Telvue, through which subscribers can order the fight online. Telvue customers who visit Houseofboxing.com can order the fight via the Internet during the last two weeks beforehand.

"The MSOs are also very active in promoting the fight on their individual Web sites, as well as promotion for ordering the fight on the Internet," Ross said.

On the print side, TVKO will distribute 1.5 million direct-mail promotional pieces to cable homes, Ross said. The network will also place print ads in such outlets as
USA
Today

on Nov. 29 and Dec. 1.

TVKO will also run 30-second spots on such national sports programs as
Friday Night Fights
, ESPN's Winston Cup coverage, Turner Sports' National Basketball Association telecasts and the Fox broadcast network's National Football League telecasts.

In addition to national efforts, Ross said the industry has stepped up its marketing and promotion of the fight. A marketing-based rate card for the fight enhances the industry's efforts, she added.

Operators that run 375 cross-channel spots and execute four marketing tactics will earn a 45 percent split of the revenue. Those that generate a 2.2 percent buy-rate will receive half of the take.

Those that elect not to market the fight will receive 35 percent of revenues.

"We believe it's a good rate card and it should help operators get behind what is considered the fight of the year," Ross said.

TVKO hopes to capitalize on the momentum generated by the Lewis-Tua fight, which generated a surprising 420,000 buys-significantly above both TVKO and operator projections.

Home Box Office senior vice president of sports operations Mark Taffet said that the fight drew about 300,000 cable buys and 120,000 direct-broadcast satellite buys. DBS and cable numbers were up 40 percent and 20 percent, respectively, from TVKO's April Lewis-Michael Grant fight, he added.

"It was an almost miraculous performance and certainly exceeded expectations," Taffet said. "It represents the highest number of PPV buys for a heavyweight fight this year."

Taffet said the company's strategy to build Tua up as a legitimate contender for the heavyweight championship helped successfully sell the fight to consumers-even thought it turned out to be a lopsided affair.

"This fight featured the best heavyweights in the world and David Tua was given a legitimate chance to win the championship," he said. "Our advertising was right on target."

He also believes that Lewis's PPV appeal will continue to grow, even though the in-ring action disappointed many viewers and boxing observers. "The fight's performance shows the continued progress of Lewis on PPV," Taffet said.

He added Lewis will make at least one PPV appearance in 2001, although Taffet would not reveal specific opponents.

But the top fighters in the division-Kirk Johnson, World Boxing Organization champ Wladimir Klitschko, Hasim Rahman and Oleg Maskaev-are not recognizable names and would be very difficult to promote as attractive PPV opponents for Lewis.

Most industry observers believe Lewis' strongest PPV opponent would be former heavyweight champion Mike Tyson. That fight will be difficult to make, though, given the opposing network alliances of both fighters.

Lewis has a multifight deal with HBO, while Tyson has an agreement with Showtime Networks Inc.

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