In the boxing world, the normalisation of pay-per-view fights has grown in recent years. You simply won’t see a high-profile match-up or a title-deciding bout on your normal sports subscription channels and definitely not on your free-to-air TV stations either.
The question is whether PPV boxing is more beneficial or detrimental to the sport as a whole. Let’s look at the pros and cons regarding PPV boxing broadcasts.
The most obvious benefit that springs to mind is that the fighters get very well paid for their extremely gruelling training camps and body conditioning. It is a rightful nod to their expertise at an art many of us like to watch but few of us actually dabble in.
Also, there is far more to it than just the fighter’s skill in the ring when it comes to selling PPV boxing matches. A boxer’s personality precedes him – think Tyson Fury, Floyd ‘Money’ Mayweather, Mike Tyson and co. The bigger the profile, the higher the sales. Imagine the PPV figures the mighty Muhammad Ali would have garnered at the height of his fame.
Of course, there are other positives but they are mainly for the already uber-rich television networks who are raking in your hard-earned cash through these sales.
On the downside, it has to be considered a blow for youngsters who can no longer gain easy access to live fights. Many adults would probably consider this to be a good thing and maybe it is. However, put yourself in the place of a teenager who has already decided he/she wants to take a serious shot at a boxing career. PPV fights mean less exposure to young minds who are looking to learn exactly how the best at their trade apply their skills. Sure, they can watch it on YouTube a few days later but that takes the intensity away from their viewing pleasure. They don’t get to enjoy the frantic unpredictability of a live global sporting event.
For UK viewers, PPV bouts often mean they end up having to either stay up very late or get up very early if they want to watch the fight live. These fights will often be held in Las Vegas, close to the west coast of the United States. There is a considerable time difference between Vegas and London with the English capital being eight hours ‘ahead’.
The main Vegas fights on a PPV card generally start at some time between 10pm and midnight, Vegas-time. That means for UK customers, they’re having to tune in any time from 6am onwards for the big fights.
The most concerning factor about PPV boxing is for the TV stations. Are they simply pricing us out of it? How many people have now turned to illegally streaming boxing matches or signing up to IPTV services with much-reduced monthly/yearly rates?
Piracy is on the rise as broadband speeds skyrocket, especially in urban areas. No more buffering and no more unreliable connections mean people are getting all of their services via mostly fibre internet feeds. If you don’t use an IPTV service you could have a ‘dodgy’ box, combining your satellite signal with your internet feed to avail of all channels, including the PPV events.
The powers-that-be in the boxing/TV world have taken a very short-sighted approach. The money may still be flowing in for these PPV fights but how much more will the average boxing fan take? When will enough be enough? Will they accept another 15 per cent price hike for the next big match-up?
My guess is no. It’s a good time for those who provide illegal streaming services and things will continue to improve for them as long as the PPV prices continue to rise. Even those who feel a moral obligation to continue to pay for their legal services through the proper channels will eventually say enough is enough.
If TV stations and PPV providers really want to battle piracy then maybe they need to find a price that’s more suitable for the customer. The vast majority of sports fans would be happy to pay a reasonable fee for a valid and dependable service. It’s when they feel they’re being taken for a ride that they bite back.