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Volume 21 No. 1
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HBO’s ‘Fight Day Now’ aims to build excitement ahead of Pacquiao-Marquez

Editor's note: This story is revised from the print edition.

The president of boxing promotion company Top Rank watches ESPN’s “College GameDay” with envy on Saturday mornings in the fall, sucked in by the contagious excitement of a live audience, a sea of fans decked out in school colors, waving foam fingers and hoisting homemade signs.

“When they go to Alabama, I watch it and I think — I want to be there,” said Todd DuBoef. “I think we can do that with our programming. The ecosystem around our events is so compelling. It can be great television. So we’re going to try it and see how it goes.”

As a lead-in to Saturday night’s pay-per-view featuring Manny Pacquiao against recurring rival Juan Manuel Marquez, HBO will premiere “Fight Day Now,” an hourlong, same-day pre-fight show reminiscent of “GameDay.” Emanating from the lobby of Las Vegas’ MGM Grand, host Jim Lampley and analysts Max Kellerman and Emmanuel Steward will preview the fight in a telecast that likely will be heavy on celebrities and Vegas glitz.

The broadcast airs at 4 p.m. on HBO Zone as part of a six-hour block of Pacquiao-Marquez programming beginning at noon. Two episodes of the popular “24/7” show will lead into “Fight Day Now” and two episodes will follow it. It’s similar to the schedule HBO implemented for the first time for Floyd Mayweather’s fight against Victor Ortiz in September, which delivered 1.25 million buys and $78.4 million in domestic sales, according to promoter Golden Boy.

“I think it’s going to feel like you’re right in the middle of the frenzy that takes place in Las Vegas on the day of a big fight,” said Mark Taffet, senior vice president of HBO Pay-Per-View. “The fans will be buzzing. The boxing world will be gathering. And you get figures from the sports and entertainment world that transcend boxing. Our hope is to capture that pulse, electricity and buzz that takes place on the day of the biggest fights and bring it into the living rooms of America.”

HBO also will air the Pacquiao-Marquez weigh-in live at 6 p.m. ET Friday on its flagship channel — something it never has done. That leads into all four “24/7” episodes, including the series finale, which is followed by a live show hosted by Lampley that will catch viewers up on what has gone on in both camps in the days since “24/7” production wrapped up.

It’s the sort of expanded coverage that promoters Top Rank and Golden Boy have long pushed for, but only recently landed. Earlier this year, Top Rank moved Pacquiao’s fight against Shane Mosley to Showtime because that network agreed to bring to bear promotional assets from parent company CBS’s holdings — on traditional TV, on radio, in print and online. That changed the playbook for pay-per-view promotion. Golden Boy pushed for and received similar assets from HBO for Mayweather-Ortiz. HBO again is using assets from across parent company Time Warner to promote Pacquiao-Marquez.

“The unprecedented, broad scope of using all of the Time Warner assets as part of this campaign is like nothing I’ve ever seen before,” DuBoef said. “My whole shift has been about getting our product onto as many platforms and getting awareness from as broad an audience as possible.”

Time Warner put the fight in front of sports fans, running promos during MLB playoff games on TBS. It planned to do the same before NBA games last week, had they not been casualties of the lockout. Time Warner also aired episodes of “24/7” on CNN — albeit at midnight on both coasts — and agreed to feature Pacquiao as a guest on Piers Morgan’s prime-time talk show. The interview, shot at the Wild Card Gym in Los Angeles, where Pacquiao trains, is scheduled to air Friday night.