Arum Eyes CBS By Steve Kim, MaxBoxing (Feb 2, 2011) Special to Doghouse Boxing - Tweet
It's another week or two before the nationwide press tour for the May 7th bout between Manny Pacquiao and Shane Mosley kicks off but the pieces are being put into place for the much-ballyhooed new partnership between CBS and Showtime, which has replaced HBO Pay-Per-View in distributing this fight for Top Rank and the Filipino icon. What was attractive to Bob Arum was the various platforms that CBS brought to the table.
And it looks like they will be fully utilized, prior to this promotion.
"The ‘Fight Camp 360,’ there's going to be a preview show about it on CBS. Then the first one is on Showtime, a half-hour; second one's on Showtime, a half-hour and then the week before the fight, it's primetime on CBS for an hour. And the one that's fight week, that's Friday night on Showtime and a replay on CBS on Saturday afternoon, right before the fight," Arum told Maxboxing on Tuesday afternoon.
As for the other vehicles which will be used to push this fight, Arum said, "We have the owned and operated stations; they are doing special features. CBS Radio is going to be actively promoting the fight. We have access to CBS billboards- they have a big billboard company- all over and a lot of their programming assets are going to be involved with the fight."
There is also talk of CBS morning program “The Early Show” covering the fight (something that was a regular occurrence in the ‘80s with shows like “Good Morning America” on ABC). "That's looking good," said Arum. "We're not sure if it will be where they set up a studio there or just do remotes. Nothing is completely new; the technology is different but that's what we're coming up with. Then, of course, we'll highly promote on their web platforms on CBS."
Sure beats doing the same, stale “24/7,” doesn't it?
Looking at the big picture, to be brutally frank, Pacquiao-Mosley is the exact same fight that was derided by a lot of pundits. All this extra exposure may result in more pay-per-view purchases but the real payoff will be if CBS decides to dip its toe back into the boxing business by televising fights once again. And Arum says that might come sooner rather than later.
When discussing the immediate future of Julio Cesar Chavez Jr. (who defeated Billy Lyell in Culiacan, Mexico this past weekend to set up his bout with Sebastian Zbik for the WBC middleweight title), Arum explained, "Because it's an expensive fight, it will be staged either in Mexico, which is unfortunate because the networks don't want to go to Mexico because they're scared away because of the violence- even though we do it in a non-violent place- or a place in the Mideast, which I'm not going to name, is talking about putting up significant money to stage the fight there. In which case, it could be for a primetime show over in the Mideast and that would be the afternoon in the United States and we would attempt to have it as the first show in many years on network television."
There's no denying that this is a blockbuster deal for Top Rank and- for now- Pacquiao but the real impact of this deal will be if it can benefit the overall industry, not just one entity. Arum, who believes this agreement is a large part of his overall legacy, doesn't disagree.
"Absolutely, that's my hope and I believe that there's no reason why it shouldn't happen and that it will not only benefit Top Rank, it'll benefit everybody involved in boxing. The fighters, the other promoters. We won’t have a monopoly on this and indeed, if the first couple of fights on network television succeed, with the ratings and so forth, with promotion, you think it'll be a monopoly of one network? You don't think NBC and ABC and Fox won’t be joining the parade?"
Boxing, compared to league sports like the NFL, the NBA and Major League Baseball, is cost-effective programming but with an important caveat.
"It all depends on sponsor support," Arum pointed out. "They knew when they stopped doing boxing on network television that the ratings were very good. What prevented them from doing it was that, for one reason or the other, sponsors appeared to lose interest and it was much easier for their sales staff to sell time in league sports than it was in boxing. So y' know, it's human nature; the sales people love to go out with sponsors, have five or six drinks and sell the NFL. That's a no-brainer but to sell boxing and to explain to them about this fighter and that fighter, it takes hard work. Now we have to demonstrate to everybody that there are sponsors here, that the whole of network television has changed. That's why you have so many dead spots on Saturday and Sunday afternoons, plus Saturday night in primetime, where they have reruns. So now, you demonstrate that you're going to get ratings, that you're going to get a demographic that they want and then the sponsors come in and wave their money and it's a no-brainer; of course you go back on television."
Looking back, did the powers-that-be like Arum understand the slippery slope they were on when they decided to put the bulk of their bigger events on HBO and then Showtime, who came with robust license fees that dwarfed what the networks were doling out? For this extra money, they gave up quite a bit of exposure.
"Well, boxers are boxers; they have short careers; they're like the river flowing by," said Arum, going all Larry Merchant, "but promoters are there constantly but you have to satisfy the boxers and their short careers."
This much is clear; regardless of where boxing is telecast, in the era of television packagers who don't care if they sell 500 tickets to their events, truer, bona fide promoters are needed for the overall long-term health of the sports. "Yeah, we need more promoters; nothing would help the sport more than to have more real promoters, more real promoters that go out and do things and do innovative things, Yeah, absolutely."
So as the euphoria of the CBS partnership has waned and the framework is in place for an exciting, if unsure future, Arum has no doubts that he has made the right move for his company, the “Pac-Man” and the boxing industry.
"Oh, absolutely, we're thrilled with this situation and we really believe that it's great for boxing and it's great for this promotion. Sure, it's taken it to another level."
There is a very good chance the NFL may not have a 2011 season and, if so, it could open up some venues to host events, which don't make any revenue if their gates are locked. I'm told that if there is a lockout, Giants Stadium is certainly in play to host the rematch between Miguel Cotto and Antonio Margarito in July, with NFL'ers, Brandon Jacobs and Tom Zbikowski (who would be out of work at that time) appearing on the show. It would also clear up space on television for the weekends. Not saying that would be much of a factor but there is precedence for this.
"Lemme give you an example," said Arum, recalling the NFL work stoppage of 1987, "when there was that lockout and they had those stupid games with the scab players and everything. So there were afternoons that we would do a 2 o'clock fight for ABC in Atlantic City in a hotel; we'd go across the street and do a 4 o'clock fight for CBS, also in Atlantic City. We would do on a weekend, during that period, four boxing shows for the networks. Four!"
Yeah, two shows in one day for two separate networks. Those were the days.
"Yeah, we used to walk across the street! We'd walk down the Boardwalk."
My colleague Kevin "Steel Curtain" Iole reported on his Twitter feed that the HBO rating for the Tim Bradley-Devon Alexander fight this past weekend did a 2.3., which is a really good ERA (especially in the American League) but not for a fight in which HBO spent around $4 million for and guaranteed Alexander a return on the network for over a million bucks and had two Sergiy Dzinziruk fights crammed down their throats by television packager Gary Shaw.
According to John Chavez, of www.theBoxingTruth.com, who has a pipeline to the Nielsen numbers, this fight was viewed by 1.345 million live viewers.
Chavez sent me some other figures of some recent HBO broadcasts and their figures:
July 17, 2010 - Bradley-Abregu - Agua Caliente, Rancho Mirage, CA - 897,000 live viewers
August 7, 2010 - Alexander-Kotelnik - St. Louis - 1.057 million live viewers
August 14, 2010 - Pascal-Dawson - Montreal, Canada - 1.118 million live viewers
September 11, 2010 - Gamboa-Salido - Palms Vegas - 744,000 live viewers
November 6, 2010 - Judah-Mathysse - Prudential Center, New Jersey (BAD) - 766,000 live viewers
November 20, 2010 - Martinez-Williams - AC - 1.3 million live viewers "same as pac-margs replay"
November 27, 2010 - Marquez-Katsidis - Vegas - 998,000 live viewers
December 11, 2010 - Khan-Maidana - Vegas - 1.17 million
For the record, the most viewed fight on HBO last year, according to Chavez, was Cotto's bout at Yankee Stadium against Yuri Foreman at 1.6 million.
OK, Bradley-Alexander proved once again that just because you match two of the best fighters in a division, that doesn't necessarily make it a big fight or event. And records don't make great fights. Styles do but just matching two guys who have great accolades and skills, doesn't make it big in itself. Seriously, you can go on boxrec.com and make a multitude of matches with glossy records involved and highly-rated fighters. It really means nothing if those fights don't involve entities who have been promoted to be known by the public, the event to be marketed correctly and taking place at the right time in the proper venue. There are a lot of facets to making a truly significant event; Bradley-Alexander only fulfilled one of them. That's why it failed from a commercial and critical standpoint.
And as Main Events’ Kathy Duva has said over and over again (correctly), the public determines a star by their support. So judging by the turnout in Pontiac and the rather tepid ratings on HBO, the public has spoken loud and clear. They didn't want what was microwaved for the night of January 29th. It was a significant match-up but not a “big” fight, by any means.
But hey, I guess it's not important that not many folks showed up to the Silverdome or the fact that not all that many viewers tuned into HBO. The important thing is that it just took place, right?
Will that be the new party line?
So will the fact that Bradley, a fine prizefighter, beat Alexander (but does not resonate with the public) certainly be held against him by Arum as it relates to a possible fight with Pacquiao in the future?
Well…maybe. Maybe not.
"Assume he's not going to re-sign with Gary Shaw, which I don't think he will. Now, he's going to look for a promoter. Well, we're not going to put him right in with Pacquiao. Give me time; give me six months to build this guy. I'd put him in a fight but I'll do a whole marketing plan around him with our P.R. staff. Nobody has a P.R. staff; nobody does sh*t anymore and we would make him a household name."
I assume that fight wouldn't be at the Silverdome.
Mercito Gesta makes his 2011 debut on Feb. 18th in San Francisco; for ticket information on that show, you can visit http://theboxingtruth.vbotickets.com/events ...While I was talking to Arum, Kermit Cintron called Arum on his cell phone. It looks like Arum will work out a deal with Lou DiBella to get ‘The Killer” over to Top Rank on a co-promotional basis. "Almost all of the big fighters want to come with us because we promote!" exclaimed Arum. Yeah, and they don't go to the Silverdome (Yeah, I'm belaboring that joke, I know but I was there. I earned it)...Top Rank will be doing their first “Friday Night Fights” card in years on ESPN2 the night before Pacquiao-Mosley at the Mandalay Bay, I'm told...Vanes Martirosyan will be making his return on March 19th...On Tuesday, James Toney made his return to the Wild Card Boxing Club and Danny Jacobs was also there. Look for Gabe Montoya to have a full-length feature on Jacobs later this week...Who else is waking up extra early on Wednesday morning and watching ESPNU for all the national signing day coverage?...Great to have “Brick City” back on Sundance, simply one of the best shows in all of television......