SBJ/Jan. 31-Feb. 6, 2011/Media

Draw of Pacquiao lures CBS into Showtime deal

Manny Pacquiao’s surprising move from incumbent HBO to challenger Showtime for his next pay-per-view fight found traction during the holidays, when his promoter, Bob Arum, vacationed in Los Cabos, Mexico, with four other couples, including CBS President Les Moonves and his wife, Julie Chen.

Arum had been prodding Moonves about getting boxing back on CBS for the last two years. Moonves showed twinkles of interest, but it never went anywhere. Most advertisers had rejected the sport, Moonves reminded him. He remained skeptical about whether it could attract a mainstream audience.

But then, on the trip to Cabo, Arum sensed a shift.

Manny Pacquiao will fight Shane Mosley in a
pay-per-view bout that will air on Showtime.
“I realized while we were palling around that Les, like everybody else in sports and around the country, is absolutely fascinated with Manny Pacquiao,” Arum said last week, when Top Rank and Showtime announced that Pacquiao’s May 7 bout against Shane Mosley will air on Showtime pay-per-view, supplemented by a behind-the-scenes show that will air, in part, in prime time on CBS. “I took the opportunity to talk to Les once again and, all of a sudden, he was really gung-ho on doing it. He was so taken by Manny Pacquiao, he thought it could work. He gave us the go-ahead, and now here we are.”

The linchpin in the deal was CBS’s carriage of an hourlong episode of “Fight Camp 360,” a four-part series that Showtime will air in the weeks leading up to the fight. CBS will air the show in prime time on the week before the fight, Arum said. CBS Sports also will promote the fight during its Final Four broadcasts, Arum said, along with airing coverage from the Friday weigh-in during the Saturday of the fight.

The bout will be only the second boxing pay-per-view produced by Showtime since 2005. Earlier this month, Showtime announced it would produce a March 12 co-promotion between Top Rank and Don King Productions, featuring Miguel Cotto vs. Ricardo Mayorga.

Pacquiao’s last four bouts — against Antonio Margarito, Joshua Clottey, Miguel Cotto and Ricky Hatton — have combined for about 4 million buys and $215 million in sales during the last two years for HBO pay-per-view. The HBO Sports “24/7” series built around Pacquiao’s most recent bout attracted an audience of about 3 million per episode, according to HBO.

The shift hinged on CBS’s ability to deliver a larger and broader audience for the “360” show and other elements that will promote the pay-per-view, Arum said. All other aspects of the deal are identical to the playbook HBO follows for its pay-per-view distribution, with 45 percent of revenue going to the pay-per-view providers and the network taking a 7.5 percent commission from the other 55 percent. As it did with HBO, Top Rank will cover the production cost of the four-episode series, anticipated to be about $1.25 million, Arum said.

“HBO does a tremendous job on the ‘24/7,’ but essentially it’s seen on a platform that has 28 million homes,” Arum said. “We had to get beyond that, and Manny Pacquiao is taking us there. He’s creating a dimension like no other boxer since Ali or maybe Sugar Ray Leonard. It’s larger than just boxing. Les recognized that.”

Moonves’ blessing set in motion a series of meetings that led to the consummation of the shift to Showtime. But the groundwork was laid about six months ago, when Arum sent Top Rank President Todd DuBoef to meet with Ken Hershman, executive vice president and GM of Showtime Sports. Because Top Rank’s premium fights long have aired on HBO, the company needed to re-establish a relationship with management at Showtime. DuBoef suggested they could do a Pacquiao pay-per-view together if CBS were in the mix. Before long, they were meeting with Showtime CEO Matt Blank.

With Showtime on board, Arum revived the idea with Moonves in Cabo. Moonves cleared executives at CBS to work together with Hershman and DuBoef on a plan, which they finalized two weeks ago during a meeting in Los Angeles. Arum said HBO Sports President Ross Greenburg made a final pitch to land Pacquiao-Mosley on the eve of that meeting, but HBO’s plan didn’t offer the reach of CBS.

Arum said he had further conversations with Greenburg and HBO Co-President Richard Plepler and does not think the move will preclude future dealings with the network, which has controlled boxing’s economic landscape for the last decade.

“It was a business decision,” said HBO spokesman Ray Stallone, “and we move on.”

Return to top

Related Topics:


Video Powered By - Castfire CMS Powered By - Sitecore

Report a Bug