One important adjustment even Bob Arum admits boxing must make in a post-pandemic American economy is to lower pay-per-view prices.
Arum suggested during the most recent episode of Chris Mannix’s Sports Illustrated boxing podcast that it’s time to drop suggested retail prices of pay-per-view events to $40. That would entice many more boxing fans to purchase pay-per-view fights and reduce piracy, which according to Arum, would offset the drastic drop in price from what has become an ever-increasing industry standard.
The last major pay-per-view boxing event in the U.S. – the Tyson Fury-Deontay Wilder rematch – cost approximately $80 to watch in HD through most cable and satellite companies. Lowering pay-per-view prices will require cooperation among promoters such as Arum and boxers, but Arum believes they all should take note of the success of pay-per-view boxing in the United Kingdom, where events cost considerably less.
“You look at the UK, which has maybe 25 percent [of the] population of the United States, maybe less,” Arum told Mannix. “I mean, they have 50 or 60 million people in the UK. We have 350 million people in the United States. In the UK, they do on a big fight over a million [buys on] pay-per-view, particularly if it’s, you know, prime time in the UK. And one of the reasons for their success is they charge appropriate prices for the pay-per-view. In other words, the pay-per-view goes for 20 or 25 pounds, of which the government takes 20 percent in the vat. So, people can pretty well afford that.
“In the United States, where we charge 80 or more dollars for a pay-per-view, people can’t afford that unless they’re gonna have big crowds in the house, chipping in. And because of the high price, they look for ways to watch the fight without paying, like streams and everything. Which, you know, the danger there is, other than breaking the law, which they probably won’t get caught, is that these streams get [shut] down and they miss seeing the fight. So, if we charge, go back to charging $40, I think you will see a tremendous increase in the number of homes that will buy it.”
Fury’s seventh-round technical knockout of Wilder on February 22 in Las Vegas wasn’t the pay-per-view success Arum and Haymon sought. Their WBC heavyweight championship rematch produced somewhere between 750,000 and 800,000 buys in the U.S.
Arum was encouraged, though, by the number of consumers that bought that fight through ESPN+ and FOX Sports’ app.
“What we saw is because so many people in America have cord cut, that DirecTV and Dish [Network] have really shrunk,” Arum, whose company co-promotes Fury, explained. “And their customers were big buyers. So, that universe has shrunk. The cable universe has shrunk because people have cut the cord. And now, I was happy to see in the last fight [the Fury-Wilder rematch] that ESPN+ did 250,000 buys on their platform. And FOX did about 50 or 60,000 on their platform. So, I think as you’ll get more people into the digital platforms, you’re gonna see an increase in the amount of buys.
“But it has to be realistic numbers. Forget about $80 a home. That is not realistic, particularly now, when we open up. Let’s say we can do a big event, people will be reluctant to open their homes to eight or nine or 10 other couples. So, more and more people will be watching a fight just with their families. So again, nothing is certain. The future is doubtful. But we have to look ahead and figure out how we’re gonna proceed in the future.”
Keith Idec is a senior writer/columnist for BoxingScene.com. He can be reached on Twitter @Idecboxing.