By Mitch Abramson
Fans looking forward to sifting through future pay-per-view numbers after a big fight as a way to rate the success of a promotion shouldn’t rely on Showtime to provide those figures going forward.
Showtime boxing head Stephen Espinoza told BoxingScene.com on Monday the network plans on withholding upcoming PPV numbers to avoid the type of controversy that engulfed Floyd Mayweather’s last bout with Marcos Maidana on May 3 when the topic of PPV buys seemed to overwhelm the actual bout itself, he said. The numbers will only be released if the event sets a PPV record, he said.
“The dynamic that we’ve observed over the last six months in particular- there seems to be an almost obsession with the pay-per-view numbers,” Espinoza said during a break from the press tour in Manhattan for Mayweather’s Sept. 13 rematch with Maidana. “And it seems to have gotten to the point where it’s even overshadowing the talk of the event itself. And we just came to the conclusion that we’re not going to feed into it anymore and it really was a gradual process but when we saw the talk after the May 3 fight being dominated by PPV buys, at the expense of people discussing what was really an exciting, action-packed fight- and one of the most competitive fights in recent memory for Floyd- it seemed to be a real negative for the event, for the sport and for us as a whole.”
Espinoza said the network will only release the figures “if it’s a huge record setter, if we break 2.5 [million buys].” But “the normal course of business” will be to withhold the numbers, he said.
“I don’t think it’s particularly healthy,” he said of having the PPV results released to the public. “We just decided we didn’t want to particularly feed into it anymore.”
As a result, Espinoza has determined to make sure those figures remain in-house. The crux of the problem has to do with reports that Mayweather’s first bout with Maidana did roughly 900,000 buys, an impressive figure by most standards but not Mayweather, who routinely boasts of being able to do a million plus buys.
“I’m not sure that we’ll release the figures very regularly at all,” he said. “I think whether it’s a Mayweather fight or another fight I don’t know where the habit came from [of releasing the figures]. I understand the curiosity. But at a certain point it became almost bigger than the event itself, certainly with Floyd. And a second element of it is in the context of a very complex deal there are a lot of misunderstandings and misperceptions of the deal and therefore the PPV performance was being mischaracterized as generating huge losses.”
While Espinoza has disputed that 900,000 figure, he also says that even if Mayweather were to produce that amount, it shouldn’t be viewed as a failure.
“I don’t know where that comes from,” Espinoza said to a group of reporters on Monday.
“Historically Floyd has averaged a little bit over a million, maybe a little higher after the Canelo (Alvarez) fight. That’s where it comes from. The million buys doesn’t represent any break point for us.”
Espinoza raised some eyebrows when he told reporters that if Mayweather were to ever lose, his following PPV fight after the loss “will be one of his biggest. I think there’s such a curiosity about Mayweather and he’s got such a persona that the curiosity factor on how he responds to a loss both outside the ring and in the ring will make up for any loss of the façade of perfection.”
Mitch Abramson covers boxing for the New York Daily News and BoxingScene.com.