By Peter Gleason
Yes, the Floyd Mayweather-Conor McGregor fight, if you can call it that, has been lampooned as a disgrace and a mismatch by everyone in the boxing world.
But guess who disagrees:
A staggering 50 million people in the United States who are expected to pony up the pay per view fee of $99.95 to watch it Saturday night!
It threatens the PPV record set by Mayweather and Manny Pacquiao two years ago and could dwarf it in viewership as people use the event as a reason to have friends and family over for a little escapism and controlled violence.
“It’s a cultural event that crosses all demographics and all social and economic factors,” Mark Taffet, who formerly ran pay-per-view for HBO, told the Associated Press. “People are getting together to have a great time and we surely need an excuse to have a great time.”
Taffet said that while an average of 5-6 people normally watches a pay-per-view, he wouldn’t be surprised if the fight averages 10 people a household. If it sells 5 million pay-per-views as widely anticipated, the fight could be watched by nearly one in six Americans.
The fight will also be seen by millions more worldwide, with promoters claiming it will be available either online or on a TV screen to more than 1 billion homes in 200 different countries.
Though estimates vary widely, Mayweather is expected to make some $200 million, while McGregor will likely pocket at least $100 million.
Though ticket sales have been slow in Las Vegas – largely because of astronomical prices – the fight is shaping up as must-see TV at a price of $99.95. People are expected to buy the fight in record numbers, with many sharing the cost of the telecast with friends and family they invite over.
Industry observers say it’s hard to judge how many homes will buy a pay-per-view until the day of the fight many times, as people often buy late. But the anecdotal evidence – primarily the chatter on social media – indicates a good likelihood of it smashing the 4.6 million record of pay-per-view sales set by the Mayweather-Pacquiao fight.
That’s largely because the matchup will likely cross over from being just a sporting event to a party night.
“We have definitely seen massive general market interest in addition to the sports fan,” said Stephen Espinoza, who heads sports for Showtime, which will televise the fight. “These general market viewers are often not part of the audience for even the biggest combat sports event. So the ceiling is pretty high.”
Espinoza said the very nature of the fight – a matchup between a UFC star who has never boxed as a pro against one of the greatest fighters of his time – will drive the pay-per-view sales.
“We believe this is an unprecedented event, quite frankly no one knows what to expect,” he said. “The element of these two outspoken personalities in one unprecedented event is compelling.”
An early indication of interest in the fight is the massive betting both in Nevada and in other places where it is legal. Bookmakers say it will be the biggest bet fight ever, with an overwhelming number of the early tickets on McGregor to pull an upset.