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Opinion: PPVs and Subscriptions – The Cost of Consuming Boxing

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By Ian Aldous: Despite it recently becoming a new issue for football fans (#boycottppv was trending as I write this), the subject is nothing new for boxing fans. The pay-per-view debate has raged on for many, many years in the UK. The instant retort from punters when a PPV show is announced on Sky Sports or BT Sport is a reasonable one: Why should we pay extra when we already fork out for substantial monthly subscriptions?

A valid response from the networks is that certain mega-fights require copious amounts of extra cold, hard cash to secure a deal for the pugilists to fight. No cash – no fight, especially in the current climate with no gate receipts to generate money. I don’t think fight fans have a problem with this theory for the rare and exceptional cases of making such fights as Wilder vs. Fury, Joshua vs. Klitschko, Lewis vs. Holyfield and Mayweather vs. Pacquiao.

The root of the PPV problem stems from when we are requested to subsidise extra, on top of our monthly subscription, for what seem like good – but not special fights. Usyk vs. Chisora, this Saturday night, is a great heavyweight clash; but is it worth £20 on top of what we already pay every single month?

One answer to that question is how wealthy the consumer is. I remember, as a young adult living with my parents, having plenty of expendable money and would purchase almost every PPV offered, as it really didn’t make a big difference to me. Now, with a family and mounting monthly bills, I find myself pinching the pennies that I used to spend feeding my PPV habits.

Over the last few years, my PPV expenditure has diminished. Off the top of my head, those I purchased, I could count on one hand. I was happy to part with my hard-earned coinage for Joshua vs. Ruiz 2 and the two compelling GGG vs. Canelo bouts. Those battles warranted it. Whereas, in the past, I’d coughed up for PPV stinkers including Haye vs. Harrison and Khan vs. Prescott.

It was in the aftermath of the embarrassing Haye vs. Harrison PPV in 2010 that Sky ceased putting fights on its Box Office platform. Fast forward a decade and they’re staging three PPV shows in the space of seven weeks – during a worldwide pandemic, no less.

Between October 31st and December 12th, Sky Box Office will broadcast Usyk vs. Chisora, Whyte vs. Povetkin 2 and Joshua vs. Pulev. No-one will force us to pay extra, but as connoisseurs of the sweet science, we want to witness these decent heavyweight dust-ups.

I really enjoy watching the aforementioned heavyweights, but just how much do I really enjoy watching them? Are they worth £60+ on top of my monthly subscription? The fact that Dubois vs. Joyce landed on BT Sport, not on its PPV platform as widely expected, is a gargantuan P.R win for BT and in particular, Frank Warren. Furthermore, in the U.S, Top Rank were able to stage the Lomachenko vs. Lopez mega-fight without PPV – proof that big fights can be made without charging loyal fans any extra.

Remember when ITV signed a deal with Premier Boxing Champions? About four shows later (two of which were PPV) and it disappeared. It didn’t last long, but at least Boxnation and Sky used to occasionally broadcast a selection of what PBC had to offer. Now, they can only be viewed on the Fite TV app. Last Saturday’s Lipinets vs. Clayton card had a price point of £9.99.

Things fragmented even more when it was announced that Kell Brook’s ambitious challenge of Terence Crawford’s crown will be broadcast on Premier Sports, a subscription-based channel, in the UK. It’s just another cost to add to the mounting list.

I digress.

Ultimately, it’s up to you if you want to pay for Saturday’s PPV. On one hand: Usyk vs. Chisora sees a legitimate top-ten P4P star, former Olympic gold-medalist and WBSS champion at cruiserweight, battle a legitimate and live threat at heavyweight.

It is a very good fight.

On the other hand: It’s not for a world title and if this constitutes being a PPV, will all fights between contenders eventually be on this platform?

With the large amount of late withdrawals due to fighters contracting Covid-19 on pretty much every fight weekend as of late, don’t be surprised to see disaster strike and any of the three impending heavyweight main-events fall through at the last minute.

I’ll be making my decision at the last minute too.

This isn’t a dig at any single promoter or broadcaster. I’m just a voice of the increasingly frustrated boxing fan who laments the fragmented world of televised boxing.

It could be exponentially worse though. Imagine having to pay the eye-watering $75 that Showtime demand for fans to watch Davis vs. Santa Cruz. That’s around £57, which would almost buy you all three of Matchroom’s PPV cards.

Maybe things aren’t so bad.


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