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Battle for PPV bouts intensifies

HBO Sports president Ken Hershman told a group

HBO Sports president Ken Hershman told a group of boxing writers during his introductory news conference at HBO's Manhattan office that the back-and-forth between Manny Pacquiao and Floyd Mayweather has become an obstacle to making other bouts. Photo Credit: Getty Images

The tug-of-war between HBO and Showtime for boxing’s biggest pay-per-view bouts has gotten intense the last several months. Showtime struck a major blow when it landed the Manny Pacquiao-Shane Mosley fight.

Part of the reason Showtime got the bout was because CBS got involved in the promotion of it. Exposing Fight Camp 360 to a network audience is what boxing needs to get younger fans involved in the sport. Showtime pay-per-view also televised the Miguel Cotto-Ricardo Mayorga bout last March.

HBO got back into the fray, landing the Floyd Mayweather-Victor Ortiz pay-per-view bout set for September 17 at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas.

Golden Boy Promotions CEO Richard Schaefer said getting HBO’s sister networks –TNT, TruTV, TBS, CNN– involved played a major role in it getting the Floyd Mayweather-Victor Ortiz fight. Schaefer confirmed Golden Boy also spoke with Showtime, but the talks didn’t go anywhere.

“I think it was absolutely crucial,” Schaefer said when asked how important it was to get all of Time Warner’s networks involved. “[There] was really a readiness or even an eagerness on HBO and Time Warner’s part to put all of their assets into play.”

No one should get their hopes up about all of the network promotion that has gone into the big bouts lately, though. The days of prize fights being broadcast on free TV have been gone for decades. And barring a switch in advertising philosophies, the chances of boxing coming back to network TV are slim.

“When you have these big fights, they require so much financial backing,” Schaefer said. “And given the current financial landscape, with a lack of sponsorship, it makes it difficult.”

Advertisers of large corporations aren’t convinced they will get a big enough bang for their buck making ad-buys on boxing matches. Even a Mayweather-Pacquiao bout, which could happen next spring, isn’t enough to pull in the companies.

“Once the day comes when you can get McDonald’s and Coca-Cola and the big car companies interested in the sport, then it could be possible to have it on a free network…But we’re not there yet,” Schaefer said. “With the exception of the beer companies, they’re still reluctant to get involved in boxing.”

As for getting the rest of Time Warner’s assets on board, Schaefer didn’t run into much resistance, if any. “It was a relatively easy deal to be made, because they were very motivated and interested to bring all of their platforms in play,” he said.

With HBO and Showtime both willing to cross-promote with their parent companies, who will be the last network standing when Mayweather and Pacquiao finally agree to fight? 

A year ago, it would've been a no-brainer that HBO would broadcast the bout. Not anymore. With Showtime back in the mix and EPIX trying to get in the fold, there could be an all out war to land what could be boxing's most lucrative bout.

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