DirecTV Inc.'s takeover of U.S. Satellite Broadcasting
apparently spells doom for USSB's innovative 24-hour boxing/sports-event channel.
The company's Channel 900, which generated pay-per-view
boxing buy-rates well above operator performances, was expected to go dark last week,
according to sources close to the situation.
DirecTV spokesman Robert Mercer said the company had
"not finalized our plans" concerning USSB's PPV-event channel. But he did say
that the direct-broadcast satellite service would provide adequate coverage of upcoming
DirecTV bought USSB earlier this year in a stock and cash
transaction valued at $1.3 billion.
"We do intend to work with all of the top boxing
providers to deliver the highest-quality boxing entertainment available," Mercer
But industry observers said DirecTV planned to pull the
plug on the channel last Thursday. DirecTV does not currently offer a 24-hour
USSB's Channel 900 offered major PPV-boxing events, and it
also carried several smaller, niche boxing and sports-event shows.
It also ran original boxing programming, including a daily
boxing-news show, as well as traditional boxing spots and long-form video shows.
As a result, USSB generated buy-rates for major PPV-boxing
shows that were 20 percent to 25 percent above operator numbers, according to industry
"USSB consistently delivered buy-rates above the
national average of both cable and direct-to-home services, and one of the main reasons
for that was the use of long-form video presentations on Channel 900," TVKO vice
president and general manager Dan York said.
"It was a destination, not just a barker
channel," Innovative Sports Marketing co-partner Doug Jacobs said. "I hope
DirecTV follows that example, because I think that was a major reason why USSB's buy-rates
were so great -- they really attracted boxing fans."
It's unclear whether DirecTV will continue to offer the
niche boxing events that USSB distributed. Jacobs said DirecTV has already picked up two
of Innovative's Hispanic-oriented PPV shows, but Innovative had a deal with USSB to
distribute several more cards through the end of 1999.
"We have a contract, and I expect [DirecTV] to honor
it," Jacobs said.
USSB also had a long-term deal with Don King Productions to
offer a series of exclusive, quarterly PPV events. Sources close to the situation said
there was at least one year remaining on that deal.
Representatives from Don King Productions could not be
reached for comment at press time.
Several boxing observers and distributors hoped that
DirecTV would make an effort to offer a facsimile of the barker/event channel in the near
"The revenue lift that Channel 900 gave PPV events
warrants the channel allocation," York said. "As an event promoter, I feel it is
paramount that DirecTV program a full-time event informational and promotional
DirecTV sources said the company is indeed developing a
24-hour event channel that will distribute and promote "big-event boxing shows,
concerts and other nontheatrical programming." No launch date has been set, however.