With an arguably exorbitant price tag, a lot of big sports events on the same day, and different options in the new media era, some insiders don't believe that Saturday's Mayweather-Pacquiao event will quite reach the heights that its promoters may be envisioning.
A report at Forbes.com suggests that illegal streaming, for one thing, could put a real dent into the $100 pay-per-view event. The article cites high hopes the fight near four million buys, with lower end at 3.15 million for the purposes of prop bets.
But three million buys is what Zack Jones of SportsbookReview.com feels is a more reasonable expectation:
"I think 3 million is probably closer to where the line should be set. This is the first, I dare say, ‘Fight of the Century' for the social media age. Now we have streaming services, YouTube, clips of highlights. You can pretty much stream anything. It's not that hard to find these streams."
There is also an argument that with a day bursting with major sporting events, Mayweather-Pacquiao could be victim of sports fatigue. This part I feel is overstated at best, nonsense at worst. Let's look at the events listed in the Forbes article as potential impacts on the fight:
- NFL Draft: The draft begins on Thursday, April 30. It ends on Saturday. We're talking the late rounds here. Not exactly the day for Jameis Winston and Marcus Mariota. If anything, NFL Draft fatigue will have set in.
- Yankees at Red Sox: Always a big game in some respects, but it's May 2. This is not a crucial, high-profile game in any way other than two teams that play each other 19 times per season. This is the fourth Yankees-Red Sox game on 2015.
- Kentucky Derby: Every first Saturday in May every year, the Kentucky Derby happens. So does a big-time boxing matchup. The Derby has never hurt the buys for a pay-per-view boxing match before, and it won't this year.
In addition, there might be a game seven between the San Antonio Spurs and Los Angeles Clippers in the NBA Playoffs. There is an outside chance of a game seven between the Dallas Mavericks and Houston Rockets, same goes for the Milwaukee Bucks and Chicago Bulls. The NHL playoffs will be starting round two by the weekend.
So yeah, there's a lot going on, but none of it really matches the magnitude of this fight, especially as a cultural sporting event, and as something that simply does not happen all the time. The draft, the playoffs, the Yankees and Red Sox, the Derby -- these things happen every single year.
There hasn't been a Mayweather-Pacquiao level fight from a standpoint of public demand in many, many years. And even though boxing is a niche sport these days, it is also a sport that carries a lot of weight when there's finally something that the public wants to see. And the public has been begging for this fight for five years.
Now with all that said, the idea of the fight nudging toward four million buys is a little insane in the first place, and gives a lot of credit to the idea that a prop bet line is a real gauge of what anyone is or should be expecting. Three million does seem the much more attainable goal. It's expected that this fight will top the all-time buy record (2.48 million for De La Hoya-Mayweather) and will crush the all-time PPV revenue record ($150 million for Mayweather-Canelo).
And there's really no doubt that illegal streaming "hurts" events like these, but if the prices weren't so wild in the first place, would it be as big a problem? UFC seems to have burnt out its audience with constant pay-per-view events, and boxing's numbers have been down a little bit the last couple of years, too, save for the Mayweather-Canelo event, which, again, was a fight the public actually wanted to see, with two guys who had big fan bases, similar to this fight, which is even bigger and more desired.
One thing the Forbes article does mention that might be worth asking: how much longer is pay-per-view going to be a viable option? Al Haymon, who is considered the most powerful player in boxing, is already working hard to bring boxing back to the masses via network television and basic cable. WWE, which for a long time was one of the true major players in the pay-per-view game, has moved away from the model with their forward-thinking WWE Network subscription service. Are people who know what they're doing in these fields seeing the future lining up without pay-per-view? Even in other areas, with established services like Netflix and Hulu Plus, and the new HBO Now service from HBO, there is a move away from the traditional TV options. A near-elimination of pay-per-view in boxing could be a lot closer than some think.
But this fight is going to sell a ton of pay-per-views, make a ton of money, and blow everything else away. It might also be the absolute max the medium. There's nowhere to go from here except down for the foreseeable future, and the world is moving fast.