Four big fights are down, four PPV numbers are in, and according to the promoters in the industry, almost every single PPV event this year has been a major disappointment. At the beginning of the year it was announced that there would likely be five PPV events for five months in a row starting in March and ending in July. Fans immediately complained about it being too much money, and that they would be selective in what they chose to buy. Well, the fans kept their word, and the promoters felt their sting.
So far, four PPV events have passed with another looming in July. The July 12th bout between Canelo Alvarez vs Erislandy Lara will be the fifth PPV fight in as many months and one has to wonder how much more are the fans willing to buy. The only good thing about the Canelo-Lara fight is that the purses are low, so an underwhelming buy rate has little effect, as Canelo is only likely to see extra money if the PPV does well. However, the boxing fans are a niched fan-base as it is, and more PPV’s causes less buys, and less people actually watching the fights than normal. For a sport that has a limited amount of fans as it is, limiting them to watch the great fights that are available isn’t exactly the way to start building more fans.
So far these are the estimated numbers for the 2014 year:
Canelo-Angulo: 350k buys
Pacquiao-Bradley: 750k buys
Mayweather-Maidana: 900k buys
Cotto-Martinez: 350k buys
When looking at these numbers, only the Canelo-Angulo fight over performed. The rest did well under what their promoters wanted.
The simple answer to the under performing events is that there is just to many of them. Each fighter has a fan-base. Some like Canelo and will buy his fight no matter what, other’s Mayweather, other’s Pacquiao, and so on. This time though they were all too close to each other. When scheduling these PPV events you tell the fans that if you want to see the best fights you have to buy them. And that means adding money to the cable, in the case of 2014, asking that for five months in a row. Well, that’s just not going to happen.
What happened is what most expected to happen. Fans chose certain ones to buy. For the past couple years PPV fights in boxing have been held to just Floyd Mayweather or Manny Pacquiao with maybe one or two in between if the fight was intriguing enough. (Cotto-Mosley, Cotto-Margarito, Martinez-Chavez Jr). These fights had an aura around them. When fans are getting ready to purchase a PPV event they are excited. It didn’t happen a lot so when it did it was something that they wanted to buy. You call a few friends, get some drinks, food, and you get ready to watch a PPV event. It was something special. This year however, it’s become the norm. It’s been too common and most fans can’t afford to do it every month. Hence, when you look at the numbers above, in plain terms, they suck.
Bob Arum made a good point, and then pretty much contradicted it. He said that boxing had too many PPV events this year and that is why they are all underperforming. At the same time, he has lined up three PPV events to take place before the year ends. One featuring Manny Pacquiao, one featuring Miguel Cotto, and one featuring Julio Cesar Chavez Jr. Golden Boy also has Canelo lined up for a Novemeber PPV event, and Mayweather has a September one. Which means we are going to get five more after Canelo-Lara. That would estimate between 9-10 PPV fights in 2014. (There is a chance that Canelo-Cotto gets put into one if they fight each other.)
The inevitable truth is that money is still to be made on PPV events. But the promoters will likely lower the purses for their fighters in late of 2014 judging by the early 2014 numbers. Only Mayweather and Pacquiao will get the big money but even they have been lacking in numbers. Many claim that two of Mayweather’s three PPV fights have lost money because of his $32 million guarantee. With more PPV’s on the way, and Mayweather not finding a formidable foe that people will pay to see him fight, that isn’t going to get any better. Pacquiao also has the same problem as his next PPV in Macao is likely to underperform against a less than formidable opponent. Arum hopes to make up money on the Chinese PPV buys for Pacquiao’s next fight.
To ask people to add $60-$70 dollars to their cable bills for 9-10 months out of the year just to watch the big fights is absurd. Boxing fans are a niched group as it is, and dishing out that type of money isn’t worth it. The promoters felt it in early of 2014 and they will feel it again come this fall. We’ll see if they do anything to change it but if they do not then it’s likely we get another five PPV fights from September to December, and less people watching them.