Boxing stalwarts confident of avoiding tech giants KO
By Jonathan Rest in San Francisco
Leading media executives in boxing are bullish about fighting off the advances of major digital players like Amazon, Google and Facebook from snapping up live rights in the sport, claiming they have the necessary business model and infrastructure in place.
David Dinkins Jr, executive producer of sports and event programming at Showtime, the premium US entertainment cable and satellite channel that showed over 70 live boxing bouts last year, and David Tetreault, executive vice-president of media and entertainment at Golden Boy Media and Entertainment, the in-house production company of the Oscar De La Hoya-owned boxing promoter, both maintain that social media platforms have a key role to play as an additive viewing experience, but not for the high-profile live events.
The pair were speaking on a panel entitled, ‘The future of Sports Broadcasting,’ at the Sports Performance Data and Fan Engagement Summit in San Francisco, an hour’s drive from the tech giants’ Silicon Valley home.
Asked what impact the new players that have been making strides in major league sports in North America, albeit with supplementary rather than exclusive rights deals, will have on the sports broadcasting ecosystem, Dinkins Jr said: “We can hold our own. Take Mayweather-McGregor which had 4.3 million buys at $100 each. Only 10 per cent of that was attributed to video streaming. Big screen rules for big events.
“Yes the rights costs are increasing with competition, but that has to be weighed against the delivery. If you pay a lot for something and can’t get it to people you’ll go out of business. Sure you can do it [pay big money] as a vanity play, but that’s not a sustainable mode.
“Let’s see if the likes of Amazon and Facebook will actually pay up for NFL rights. Having your own content, controlling that content and controlling the distribution, that is the way to be successful in this business.”
Showtime has shown the two highest pay-per-view events in boxing history, Floyd Mayweather and UFC superstar Conor McGregor last August and the 2015 'Fight of the Century' between Mayweather and Manny Pacquiao that set a US record of 4.5 million buys.
Golden Boy Media and Entertainment produced thousands of hours of live programming for networks globally in 2017, and showed 18 events on ESPN in a deal with the cable sports broadcaster.
It expects to increase that to as many as 24 televised ESPN events this year.
Tetreault said: “We are comfortable with our position. We have spent the last three years setting up an over-the-top infrastructure and taking control of our production destiny. We have built out ringtv.com [the TV channel of De La Hoya-owned boxing magazine The Ring] to be the OTT delivery system for PPV, while HBO handles the terrestrial delivery of PPV. The product works and is hugely successful.”
Tetreault said the company will continue to “break some barriers in 2018 to integrate social media” into the overall offering.
He explained: “Live content is king, but we’ll use social media platforms, whether it’s to give some recognition to our up-and-coming fighters or push highlights on Twitter. We’ll look to grow the live stream of undercards as we build names and profiles. We are seeing a younger audience for boxing than we anticipated.”
Dinkins Jr added: “We’ll work with Facebook in the week of a big fight, streaming the weigh-ins, the press conferences and even some of the undercard to push people onto our premium product.
“At the moment, we see them [digital players] as compatible elements, not competitors, that help the aggregate.”