WBC heavyweight champion Deontay Wilder will take on lineal champion Tyson Fury tomorrow night (February 22nd) in a rematch of their 2018 fight (which ended in a majority draw). FOX Sports and ESPN are co-promoting the bout. It is the first time the “two main sports media companies” are working together to put on a PPV event, but with Wilder fighting under the Premier Boxing Champions banner (Al Haymon & Co. maintain a broadcast relationship with FOX Sports) and Fury a member of Top Rank’s stable (Bob Arum’s promotion has a broadcast deal in place with ESPN) a collaboration was necessary to make the mega-fight – considered by many to be the ‘biggest’ heavyweight title fight in +/- 20 years – happen. For all involved, the hope is that the “unprecedented joint marketing and promotional efforts” will lead to north of 1 million PPV buys (considered significant in today’s media environment).
Howie Long-Short: Top Rank President Todd duBoef praised ESPN and FOX Sports for their efforts in co-promoting the event. “[The two companies] have worked seamlessly together [in their attempt] to create the biggest fight possible. The FOX crew produced [10 hours of original programming including] a four-part series entitled ‘Inside Wilder-Fury 2’. ESPN produced an E60 and several other originals around the fight. [ESPN] had Wilder at the Fiesta Bowl. [FOX] had Fury at the Super Bowl. [And together, the networks] have been working to reach [the mainstream] sports fan since early January – creating a ton of momentum in the process.”
Arum has predicted that Wilder-Fury 2 will draw 2 million PPV buys. The long-time promoter (and Top Rank CEO) said when he considers the promotional juice behind the fight, looks at what comparable fights have done on cable and satellite and then adds the number of digital buys that ESPN+ and FOX Sports anticipate – accounting for a 20% cannibalization rate – “the math indicates the fight will do over 2 million homes.” Of course, he’s referring to buys in the U.S., Canada and Puerto Rico (international purchases are counted separately).
2 million PPV buys would make the long-awaited rematch wildly profitable. Initially, the belief was that Wilder-Fury 2 needed to do between 1 million and 1.1 million homes for the fight to break-even, but Arum says with closed circuit sales (think: bars, restaurant chains) and gate receipts coming in higher than the models anticipated, break-even is now between 800,000 and 850,000 buys. “We projected $1.65 million in closed circuit sales and as of Wednesday, [revenues] were over $3 million; [the final number] will probably end up over $4 million. We expected the gate to to come in at $12 million or $13 million and [the event is going to do] over $16 million.”
Two million buys would also be a HUGE number “in the new media landscape” (the Sept. ’18 fight between Canelo-GGG reportedly did 1.1 million). Changes in technology and consumption habits have created a “level of uncertainty” making it more difficult for fight promoters to predict buy totals ahead of time, but Top Rank’s executives remain optimistic. duBoef explained that ESPN+’s 7.5 million subscribers would (in theory, excluding the satellite companies) make the D-T-C streaming service “the third largest cable provider (behind only Comcast and Charter). The question is are the buyers on that platform additive or a replacement [for individuals who would have bought on cable in a previous era]. The hope is that it’s a little of both and the fight eclipses over one million buys.” One well-respected boxing insider suggested Wilder-Fury 2 should “do well enough for Top Rank and PBC to announce it hit that number” (i.e. 900K+). For comparison purposes, the first fight – which cost $5 more ($84.99) – did 325K buys.
It’s unclear how piracy will impact PPV buy totals. While there’s a significant level of interest in the fight – Fathom Events says advanced ticket sales across 500+ movie theaters “are better than any other fight in history” – DAZN EVP Joe Markowski said at the SportsPro summit on Thursday that +/- 80% of those who watched the recent Logan Paul fight did so outside the U.S. pay-TV window.
Fan Marino: Anthony Joshua seeks a unification title bout with the winner of Saturday night’s fight, but Arum says fans should forget about the (other) British heavyweight for the time being. “There is a clause in the [Wilder-Fury 2] contract that says a rematch will happen – with the winner getting 60% and the loser getting 40% for the 3rd fight – unless the loser pulls the plug. And Joshua must fight two mandatories before he can even think of fighting the winner of [Wilder-Joshua 2].”
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