Wilder vs. Fury 2 PPV numbers hurt by illegal streaming says Matchroom boss

By Boxing News - 02/28/2020 - Comments

By Chris Williams: Matchroom boss Eddie Hearn says he’s hearing last Saturday’s Deontay Wilder vs Tyson Fury rematch brought in approximately 750,000 buys on ESPN and Fox Sports pay-per-view. Hearns states that the break-even point was 1.1 million buys, which means the fight could end up losing money despite it being one of the biggest matches in boxing.

The pay-per-view prices need to come down in the U.S, according to Hearn. Once the price of PPV for boxing drops to a level that fans can tolerate, then the piracy will decrease.

Hearn believes the pay-per-view numbers for the Wilder-Fury 2 rematch were hurt by illegal piracy stream. He says that the fans don’t want to pay the huge prices to watch the sport of boxing any longer.

What also hurts the pay-per-view numbers are the weak undercards that are thrown together. Fans don’t want to see obscure fighters involved in mismatches on the undercards. For example, the PPV portion of the Wilder-Fury 2 undercard had these two fights:

  • Charles Martin vs. Gerald Washington
  • Emanuel Navarrete vs. Jeo Santisima

Neither of these two fights attracted interest from boxing fans, and they had nothing to talk about other than the main event. The perception some fans had was these fighters were just thrown together and added to the Wilder vs. Fury 2 card as a time-filler

Illegal streams a result of unbearable PPV prices

“It’s terrible for their business because their break-even point was 1.1 million [buys],” said Hearn to IFl TV in responding to reports that the Wilder-Fury 2 fight brought in between 800,000 to 850,000 pay-per-view buys.

“What kind of business are you operating where a break-even point is a number that I don’t even think is an achievable number. I said before, it does 700 to 800,000 buys. That’s a good solid number for this fight. But the money that Fox and ESPN put in for this fight in terms of ad space and air time, it ain’t good news. But one thing you are seeing is streaming numbers.

“It was like 350,000 streams for ESPN+. It shows you that more people are digesting content by streams. I think FOX only did 50,000 pay-per-view buys, which is madness. But one of the problems is there are so many illegal streams now when the price becomes unbearable to the customer,” said Hearn on Wilder-Fury 2.

If the networks lose money on big pay-per-view events in the U.S, like Wilder vs. Fury, it’s unclear whether it’s sustainable for them to continue putting on these events. If they can’t stop the illegal streaming of boxing events, then something has got to give.

Undercards need to be improved to give value for money

“One thing I’ll tell you about illegal streams is, people, think it’s clever,” said Hearn. It’s illegal, by the way. That’s why it’s called an illegal stream, but people think it’s clever. ‘Oh, I got an illegal stream.’ You’re taking money out of the fighter’s pockets. On pay-per-views, the money goes to the fighters.

“Don’t think it’s affecting me, because it’s not. Maybe a tiny bit compared to how it’s affecting the fighters. The thing about illegal streams if your price point is 19-pound 99, and you’re thinking, I can sit down.

“The other thing I’m going about is the undercard because you got to give value for five or six hours of the night. You got to sell to the customer an experience where you can sit down, watch world championship boxing, great fighters, 50-50 fights, and build into the main event. Not, ‘there’s the main event, and I don’t even know who is on the undercard.’

So when it’s 19 pounds 99, you can say to the customer, ‘sit down, it’s a great value, all night, you’re going to watch it in beautiful high definition without something popping up, saying come watch this geezer have sex with this old lady or something like that or whatever it is,” said Hearn.

Unfortunately, it’s rare for the undercards to be stocked with high-quality fights for the pay-per-view mega-fights. Who can forget the undercard put together for the Floyd Mayweather Jr. vs. Manny Pacquiao and Mayweather vs. Conor McGregor fight cards? Despite those fights bringing in massive PPV buys, the undercards were arguably poor.

High U.S PPV prices are encouraging piracy

“You can just enjoy the show.’ When it’s 65 pounds or 60 pounds, like the American pay-per-view, that’s going to encourage illegal streaming,” Hearn said. “That’s a lot of money. So what you’re seeing is the illegal streams from that particular show were through the roof, because people don’t want to pay 60 quid or 65 quid anymore.

“They’re sick and tired of it,” Hearn continued. “And what DAZN is doing with 19.99 annual subscriptions, that’s virtually what you’re paying for one pay-per-view night. I think more and more people are trying to stream.

“So on the illegal streams, just understand that you’re actually depriving a fighter of money, but more importantly at 19.95, do you really want to fire off an illegal stream with things popping off, streams behind, and you’re actually watching something that happened 4 minutes ago. So you can sit down and enjoy it.

“No one wants to pay the money. I understand that. Boxing fans don’t want to pay 20 pounds to watch a show, but that’s how it is. It’s unavoidable to create certain fights, and we know that now. But keep that price point within that range,” Hearn said.

It would be great if the price of a typical pay-per-view fight card went for $19.99 in the U.S rather than $80 to $100. You can imagine how many PPV buys the fights would bring in. Although this wouldn’t stamp out illegal streams entirely, it might help decrease the overall numbers.

Greed hurting the pay-per-view industry – Hearn

“Once you start getting too greedy, and I can’t believe it. I got a friend of mine from London that moved to America, and he’s buying the pay-per-views,” Hearn said. “He says, ‘Eddie, it makes me feel sick. It’s like 80 bucks.’ It’s become the norm for fight fans, and that’s what it is. I don’t even see them moaning about the price over here, to be honest with you.

“But maybe because there are not that many customers,” Hearn said. “The normal [American] pay-per-views like Crawford are doing like 50,000 or 100,000 [buys], so no one is really moaning because no one buys them. But if the breaking point for that fight [Wilder vs. Fury 2], and they’ve done 750,000 buys, which is apparently the new number, someone is taking a gigantic bath and done their absolute conkers.

“And you shouldn’t be doing your conkers on a fight like that. It’s like one of the biggest fights in boxing. So the business, again, is fundamentally flawed if you have the wrong model. Luckily not all of us have the wrong model,” said Hearn.

Fury’s promoter Bob Arum predicted before the Wilder-Fury 2 rematch that the fight would bring in over 2 million buys. You have to wonder what Arum is thinking now. If Hearn’s 750,000 PPV buy estimate turns out to be true, that would be a huge blow. That number isn’t even as good as the 1.3 million buys the first Canelo Alvarez vs. Gennadiy Golovkin fight from 2017.

Arum was saying how heavyweights are different, and the boxing public wants to see them. The estimated PPV numbers from last Saturday’s Wilder vs. Fury 2 fight don’t reflect Arum’s vision, and they don’t match his 2 million buy prediction either.