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Volume 21 No. 1
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The next round: Fight story lines to watch

Ring docs

This month’s airing of the HBO Films presentation “Muhammad Ali’s Greatest Fight,” a docudrama that explores Ali’s appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court after he was convicted of draft dodging, began a run of several shows that HBO Sports hopes will work hand in glove with a busy run of upcoming fights.

Spike Lee and Mike Tyson discuss their HBO Films project.
Photo by: Getty Images
HBO debuted the Ali documentary on Oct. 5, as the lead-in to a card featuring Miguel Cotto’s third-round knockout of Delvin Rodriguez. This Saturday, it debuts “Legendary Nights: The Tale of Gatti-Ward,” a review of the classic trilogy, following an anticipated action fight between Ruslan Provodnikov and Mike Alvarado. On Nov. 16 it rolls out “Mike Tyson: Undisputed Truth,” a Spike Lee-directed HBO Films project that brings Tyson’s one-man stage show to television, where it makes its debut as the lead-in to a card featuring Andre Ward against Edwin Rodriguez.

“We’re known as the leading platform for live boxing, and these shows are very compelling adjuncts to that live boxing,” said Ken Hershman, president of HBO Sports. “They feed each other. So a live fight might help feed an audience for a documentary and we’re fully expecting the Mike Tyson show to provide a great lead-in to a night of live boxing following it, as well as a ‘24/7.’”

Boxing also gets documentary treatment this week on ESPN, where the 30-for-30 film “No Mas” premieres on Tuesday night. “No Mas” follows the classic rivalry between Sugar Ray Leonard and Roberto Duran. Directed by Eric Drath, “No Mas” debuted on ESPN Deportes Saturday night.


The record-breaking numbers behind the Mayweather-Alvarez fight will be the story of the year in combat sports. The $150 million-plus in pay-per-view sales. The $20 million at the box office. Only the second fight ever to do more than 2 million buys.

But some of the lesser-known numbers tell an interesting story of the frenzy that followed the fight.

On the same day as the most watched college football game to air on CBS in 23 years, Alabama’s victory against Texas A&M, the chatter on Twitter belonged not to that game, but to Mayweather-Alvarez, based on data compiled for Showtime by Social Guide, the Nielsen social media measuring service.

The 825,000 people tweeting about the fight that Saturday pushed out 2.7 million tweets, more than doubling the Twitter activity related to the ’Bama game, which was easily the second-most-tweeted TV-related topic of the day.
The fight’s most commonly used hashtag, #TheOne, was used about 250,000 times on fight day, making it the most used tag of the day. Boxing hashtags made up seven of the top nine, with #TeamCanelo, #Mayweather and #MoneyTeam each used more than 100,000 times.

The @SHOsports Twitter account was the most mentioned sports account for the day, with more than 14,000 mentions.

“It just shows you the way that we caught fire as the fight approached,” said Showtime Sports head Stephen Espinoza. “The fight became top of mind. It’s what people were talking about. And I think that showed in the [pay-per-view] results.”

Fans also visited Showtime Sports’ website as they never had before on the day of the event, clicking there not only to order the pay-per-view, but also to watch episodes of Showtime’s “All Access” series and view other videos.

The site recorded 947,000 visitors and 1.84 million page views on fight day, up dramatically from the 78,000 visitors and 204,000 page views for Mayweather’s last Showtime pay-per-view and the 131,000 who went there on the day of Alvarez’s last fight. All that data is courtesy of Canvas, the host and administrator of Showtime Sports’ site.

“It shows you what happens when you open up access to your content and get it out in front of people,” Espinoza said. “Everything we did was about opening up access. We want people to buy the fight. But everything else was out there, delivered as broadly as we possibly could. And I think you saw the results.”

The Eye and the Peacock

The return of boxing to Saturday afternoon on CBS and NBC in December provided a watershed moment for the

The bout between Leo Santa Cruz and Alberto Guevara in December attracted 1.8 million viewers to CBS.
Photo by: Getty Images
sport, delivering the two most watched bouts of the last 12 months (see chart) and opening the door for more fights on both networks.

NBC, which placed a second fight in the top 10 in April, plans to air at least two fights a year on the flagship channel as part of its well-received “Fight Night” series, with the next scheduled to feature Main Events-promoted heavyweight Tomasz Adamek on Nov. 16.

Showtime Sports head Stephen Espinoza said he is in discussions with CBS Sports executives about more dates on the network. The focus, he said, is on finding a lead-in that will be similarly effective to the one they had in December, when they retained 90 percent of the audience from the Indiana-Butler basketball game.

“That showed there’s definitely a general market interest in boxing,” Espinoza said. “It’s critical that we have a compatible and strong lead-in in order to give the programming a boost. Since we haven’t seen boxing on network television regularly in a while, it’s going to take a while to retrain the audience. We can’t expect to pull an audience out of thin air with no sports as a lead-in.”

Fox, UFC talk production

The UFC may produce additional programming for Fox.
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When the UFC landed its Fox deal in 2011, one point that warranted watching was how the two would work together on production. Fox is known for controlling the look of everything on its air. The UFC insisted on control over its television production. Both sides say they quickly learned how to work together.

Now, with Fox in the market for programming to fill two new sports channels, the UFC is studying the expansion of its production arm to help feed that still emerging beast. Last month, UFC President Dana White and Craig Borsari, senior vice president of production and operations, began work on increasing its capacity to create non-UFC sports programming to pitch to Fox Sports.

Though White would not discuss specifics, he said the programs likely would be similar to the documentary style “Countdown” shows the UFC produces to promote its pay-per-views. The UFC would expand its production staff in Las Vegas and build a new group in Los Angeles to handle the increased output.

Top Rank eyes subscription model

Promoter Top Rank says it hopes to roll out a subscription model that would take some of its digital video content behind a pay wall by the end of the year, but has not yet determined what to put there and what to keep free.

Top Rank has been working with MLB Advanced Media on a revamp of its digital holdings for more than a year.

“There are a lot of tricky conversations [with television rights holders],” said Top Rank President Todd DuBoef.
“But there also are things that are not necessarily captured in the traditional broadcast — locker room access, preparation before the fight, things that happen in the corners — a lot of things like that could give people different insight.

“It’s a balance between giving things away to create awareness and what is a monetized product that consumers will pay for.”