RISK v REWARD: THE PAY-PER-VIEW ERA

This year, 2017, will go down in history as the year pay-per-view boxing rose to prominence in the UK. From highly anticipated and competitive fights, to underwhelming mismatches and cross-sport experiments. Everybody is trying to grab their slice of the lucrative pay-per-view pie. 

Pay-per-view fights used to occur once or twice a year in the UK boxing scene. 90% of the time they were highly anticipated match ups, fights that have been built and promoted over time with fantastic back stories and rivalries that captured the general publics imagination. This year alone we have seen ITV launch their own money-making model, Kalle Sauerland’s Super Six tournament asking for £9.95 most Saturdays and even Mick Hennessy pushing the highly entertaining Fury vs Parker on YouTube pay-per-stream. 

So what has changed? Why the increase in one-off payment based boxing? Well, fighters are starting to wrap their heads around a very simple, yet important concept. RISK VS REWARD. That is is what it all comes down to my friends! Would you rather duck the champions in your own division and amass a padded, unbeaten record spanning 15+ years? Or do you put yourself in a position to fight the biggest and baddest guys in the division (or in some cases the guys in the next 2 divisions up) and cash in on 2-3 money fights before accepting a cosy commentators job and hanging up the gloves at 31?

The fighters of today are more business savvy than ever, but these huge history making/record breaking fights come at a price, that is where the pay-per-view model is King. It takes an obscene amount of money to make these mega-fights, the fights the public want and deserve. So, where does this money come from? Promoters, advertisers, sponsors, ticket revenue and merchandise sales alone won’t come close to generating the capital required to cover such events. 

This is where YOU the general public come in. A promoter can only sell as many tickets as the venue’s capacity allows them to, but there is no limit to the amount of people who can purchase the event on pay-per-view. The standard cost for a Sky Box Office sporting event is £19.95. Let’s assume the event does 400,000 buys, that is an extra £7,980,000 in additional revenue. Don’t forget, this doesn’t include the money generated from ticket sales, advertising, sponsorships, merchandise or radio rights…

The numbers speak for themselves. As long as people continue to fuel it, the pay-per-view train will continue full steam ahead. As fights get bigger, so will the fighter’s desire to be paid more to compensate for the risk involved. Modern stars like Anthony Joshua will never box on free-view TV again because the money just isn’t enough to compensate for the world level opponents he will face moving forward. 

Risk vs Reward. 

This may sound like easy money for the fighters and promoters like Matchrooms’ Eddie Hearn. However like any lucrative business deal there is always an element of risk involved, this was evident during the unravelling of the failed Joshua vs Pulev card last weekend. The late change of several fights left certain fans frustrated and demanding a refund, now this is where the problem lies. 

Unless the show is cancelled, there is no way refunds can be issued on a pay-per-view card. That revenue will be backbone of the entire card’s fight purses, as well as covering the majority of the promotional costs. 

There is a flip side to this however… The success and notoriety these blockbuster fights have garnered has opened the flood gates to promoters across the UK. For every 1 solid pay-per-view card, there are usually 2 bad cards to follow and there are plenty of examples to choose from:

Eubank vs Quinlan

Fury vs Parker 

Groves vs Cox 

Bellew vs Cleverly 2 

Promoters are now looking for any reason to put their fights on a pay-per-view platform whether the cards are worthy or not. The excuse they use? Simple. “It’s the only way these fights can be made”. 

So where do we draw the line? Can we find a balance between pay-per-view and free to air boxing? The answer is a simple one. 

If you want record breaking, history making, unifications or grudge matches, get ready to open your wallet. But spend your hard-earned money wisely on proper products. 

It is here to stay and we can either embrace it with open arms, or invest in the latest Kodi streaming service… 

Written by Lewis Cowell

Lewis is one half of an upcoming promotional company launching late this year.

Twitter: @lewiscowell 

Instagram: @lewiscowell / @mitchellaaronspencer