By Ivan G. Goldman
When Showtime lured Floyd Mayweather, Jr. from HBO earlier this year, the network bragged about giving him the fattest boxing contract in history. We were encouraged to celebrate this daring network move. But Showtime never told us how it intends to pay Mayweather all these extra millions. Now we know. It’s planning to take it out of fans’ pockets.
First, Showtime, in collusion with Golden Boy Promotions, quietly kicked up the pay-per-view fee for Floyd’s Sept. 14 superfight against Canelo Alvarez in Las Vegas. A high-def buy will cost a record $75. That’s $5 more than anyone has ever charged for a TV fight card. Yippee.
Next, CBS, which owns Showtime, demanded that Time Warner cable double its payments for the rights to transmit its shows. CBS won’t admit it, but it expects Time Warner to raise its subscriber fees to fund this new, exorbitant charge, making it the customers’ headache. If Time Warner pays, it knows ABC, NBC, and Fox will seek a similar deal. There goes the neighborhood.
On August 2, Time-Warner, rather than pay the hike, threw CBS and Showtime off its programming roster in New York, Los Angeles, and Dallas. That deprives somewhere between 3 million and 3.5 million Time-Warner customers of these channels, creating a standoff between the two rapacious corporations. Some subscribers in L.A. have already sued Time Warner for the loss of this programming.
As we all know, these cable companies lock us into long-term contracts. It’s not so easy to switch to another carrier such as Verizon FIOS or DirectTV (DirectTV, by the way, is one of the most complained about corporations in America. The Better Business Bureau awarded it an ‘F’ rating after processing more than 41,000 complaints against it in a space of three year). Choosing among these carriers is like deciding between the stretch rack or the thumb screw.
In the meantime, as the feud wears on, the Mayweather-Alvarez card is in greater danger. No one’s talking about postponement, but if it costs the show 100,000 buys, which appears to be a reasonable estimate, that cuts $7.5 million out of the pot.
Not exactly what Golden Boy had in mind. You take away a million here and a million there, pretty soon it adds up to serious money.
Worse, this can turn off a lot of boxing fans. Many of them aren’t even aware of the problem. It’s been basically ignored by the boxing media. As far as I can tell, only boxinginsider.com and Fox Sports Radio have paid it any attention. It’s bad enough to have to pay 75 bucks to see a boxing show on TV. But not being able to see it is infinitely worse.
If the two feuding corporations can’t make a deal before Saturday night, Time Warner subscribers in the three cities won’t be able to pull in a nice little Showtime card from Carson, Calif. in which Abner Mares defends his new WBC featherweight title against Jhonny Gonzalez. Part 1 of All Access, the four-part Showtime reality series plugging the Mayweather-Alvarez card, will be presented just before the show. Also on TV, Victor Terrazas will defend his WBC junior featherweight title against Leo Santa Cruz in the lead-up bout.
Meanwhile, the NFL regular season, with its Sept. 5 start date, is almost upon us. Some fans are due to be locked out of CBS telecasts. This is all-out corporate war, and once the dogs of war get loose, no one knows what happens next. TV executives don’t rise to the top by being gentle, and they hate to lose, especially with the corporate shareholders watching. At this point, none of them appears to be worrying about suffering fans, but they are worried about the bottom line, and it’s getting hurt on both sides of the battle.
Some fans will find new ways to secure programming and never come back. There’s Netflix, YouTube, Hulu, Apple, Amazon, Google’s Chromecast, all looking to steal viewers. Many cities will have closed-circuit broadcasts of the Sept. 14 card as an alternative. Last of all, there’s piracy. Hackers and hobbyist nerds run illegal live streaming of shows, including pay-per-view shows. They’re not terribly reliable, but you don’t have to be genius to find them.
Sick Justice: Inside the American Gulag, by New York Times best-selling author Ivan G. Goldman, was released in June 2013 by Potomac Books. It can be purchased here.