Manny Pacquiao will face Sugar Shane Mosley tonight on Showtime PPV while HBO plays a taped Lady Gaga concert from Madison Square Garden.
And you know what? The taped concert might get a higher viewership.
How could this be and how did it come down to this? It all started when Manny Pacquiao’s promoter Bob Arum took Pacquiao and a host of other fighters (including Miguel Cotto and Juan Manuel Lopez) from his promotional company Top Rank to the Showtime network. Arum’s top fighters including Pacquiao have a long history fighting on HBO as Pacquiao made his debut on a undercard for an HBO PPV (TVKO PPV back then but HBO produced it) that had Oscar De La Hoya in the main event, who was under Bob Arum’s Top Rank.
Arum was reportedly frustrated by the treatment HBO gave the Manny Pacquiao vs Joshua Clottey fight in terms of marketing and not giving it the 24/7 miniseries that was given to other big fights like Floyd Mayweather vs Juan Manuel Marquez. Arum was, on-point, shopping the fight to Showtime but settled for HBO. The Clottey/Pacquiao did 700,000 buys and Arum stuck around with HBO for Pacquiao’s next fight against Antonio Margarito. That fight did an estimated 1.14 million buys, which really made Pacquiao look like boxing’s new cash cow in the absence of one guy.
Mayweather and Pacquiao tried to negotatie a deal in the December of 2009 but plans fell apart cause of Mayweather wanting Pacquiao take Olympic style drug testing. Pacquiao fought Clottey and Mayweather fought Shane Mosley, who has a past with the infamous BALCO and their performance enhancing drugs. Mayweather took care of Mosley in May of last year, only for Pacquiao fight Mosley tonight.
With Pacquiao going to Showtime and Mayweather in “retirement”, the fight is being relegated to “never gonna happen in a million years status”. However, Pacquiao going to Showtime was a game changer in the sport of boxing. It reminded a lot of people when Don King took Mike Tyson and Julio Caesar Chavez away from HBO to Showtime in the 90s. Showtime became a relevant network in terms of live sports on cable TV and HBO was hurt for a buy the impact and had to rely heavy on Oscar De La Hoya as their cash cow. Tyson did end up fight on HBO one more time and that came in a joint venture with Showtime to broadcast the Tyson/Lennox Lewis fight (which had Pacquiao on the undercard as well). That broadcast was monumental and could be used as a blueprint for a possible Mayweather/Pacquiao mega-fight in the future. As I said before, that fight is on “never gonna happen in a million year status.”
But that dynamic between the two fighters and the two rival networks made Floyd Mayweather’s recent comments to FightHype even more interesting. Mayweather said the following about the Pacquiao/Mosley fight:
You know what I’m going to be doing Saturday night? Saturday night, I’m going to be watching Lady Gaga on HBO, the best network in the world. I want everybody to tune in and watch Lady Gaga. She’s on the biggest and best network, HBO.
Now people can chalk it up by saying, “That Floyd being a jackass and an asshole.” On the other hand, people really have to consider the Lady Gaga concert actually doing significant ratings to hurt a Showtime PPV buyrate. Here are the things to consider:
1. The displeasure factor – I will watch this fight because I’m a hardcore boxing fan and other boxing fans will watch too. But I was seriously considering boycotting this fight because of my disgust that Pacquiao/Mayweather could not get done. It is the only fight that matters and honestly the only event that would be bigger than the NBA Playoffs right now. Tonight would have been the perfect night for Pacquiao/Mayweather but we’re not getting that. We’re getting Shane Mosley who got dominated for 11 out of 12 rounds against Mayweather and managed a draw with Sergio Mora. Mosley isn’t the same fighter that beat De La Hoya a decade ago and don’t expect it tonight. Not a lot of hardcore fans were happy that Mosley was in this spot but this fight was made to be a big fight.
2. There is not a lot of buzz for the fight – I live in the New York City/New Jersey area and I have yet to see a billboard or ad for Pacquiao/Mosley. I’ve seen more billboards and ads for Tomaz Ademek fights than I’ve seen for this fight. Also, Showtime’s miniseries called Fight Camp 360 hasn’t delivered in the ratings. It is very well done production but it only yielded a 0.3 rating when it was shown of CBS, which has a much higher viewership than HBO. Arum’s goal of bringing Pacquiao to Showtime was to get boxing back on network television and on CBS. The ratings have not shown that Arum’s goal is going to happen anytime soon.
3. Lady Gaga is BIG – Now, I have personally seen ads and billboards for Lady Gaga’s concert on HBO around New York City. There is in Times Square, not too far from the Showtime offices. Lady Gaga concerts have never been broadcasted on TV and she is one of the biggest pop acts going today. Reviews of the show have been good and women generally dominate the viewership of television. If enough women catch wind that a Lady Gaga concert is on, the ratings can grow from the start of the 9pm scheduled time. If this happens, the viewership might beat Pacquiao and prove that Arum needs HBO more than HBO needs Arum’s fighters.