As 15% of U.S. citizens suffer unemployment and social distancing becomes the new norm, the UFC tallied nearly 700,000 pay-per-view buys Saturday at $65 a piece generating upward of $45 million in the middle of a pandemic without a true bonafide attraction.
Top Rank boss Bob Arum has a lifetime of experience putting price points on fights on the other side of the ESPN+ platform and business, and he’s advocating boxing to drop its PPV pricing to as low as $40 moving forward as economic and social uncertainty takes over the country.
"We have to be very careful when we start doing events again and watch the prices, especially now with coronavirus because people will not watch fights in big groups in their homes like they did before,” Arum told BoxingScene.com in an interview. “PPV pricing has to be lower. Particularly because more of the buys are going to shift to digital.
“The population in the U.S. is used to watching PPVs in groups and everybody chipping in. It’s not affordable to the normal person to pay $80 to $100 and watch an event. It’s a lot of money.”
Arum staged the last PPV fight in boxing in Tyson Fury’s win over Deontay Wilder in Las Vegas in an unprecedented Fox and ESPN co-promotion priced at $79.99.
Meanwhile, Showtime’s last PPV was between Manny Pacquiao versus Adrien Broner in January 2019 for an asking price of $74.99 (HD viewing), just as Errol Spence’s win over Shawn Porter was on Fox in September.
“PPV is so successful in a [region like the United Kingdom] that is nowhere near the size of the U.S. They do over one million PPV buys. But look at the prices — it’s 20 to 25 pounds (nearly $25 to $31 in American currency). Twenty percent of that goes to the government, but that’s more affordable.”
Arum does not have a true PPV-caliber star outside of Fury. Terrence Crawford performed splendidly against Amir Khan in April 2019 during his PPV debut but tanked in the PPV box office by way of numbers, breaking barely below 100,000 buys in a showing priced at $69.99.
Arum will have to put his money where his mouth is when he stages the lightweight unification fight between Vasyl Lomachenko and Teofimo Lopez.
Both fighters were set to make their PPV debuts in the U.S. before the coronavirus pandemic broke out.
It remains to be seen how Top Rank prices the competitive scrap if it proceeds with a PPV billing.
Manouk Akopyan is a sports journalist and member of the Boxing Writers Assn. of America since 2011. He has written for the likes of the LA Times, Guardian, USA Today, Philadelphia Inquirer, Men’s Health and NFL.com. He can be reached on Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn and YouTube at @ManoukAkopyan or via email at manouk[dot]akopyan[at]gmail.com.