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PPV industry pioneer explains why Fury-Wilder 3 could exceed 1.5 million PPV buys

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A third fight between lineal and WBC heavyweight champion Tyson Fury and former titlist Deontay Wilder is being penciled in for the end of 2020 after the originally scheduled date for the summer was postponed due to the coronavirus pandemic. 

After a controversial split draw in their first meeting back in 2018, Fury made good on his promise to stop the previously undefeated Wilder when he scored a seventh-round TKO in February. The fight was highly anticipated and heavily promoted as a co-promotion between ESPN and Fox but turned in a relatively disappointing finally PPV tally of roughly 800,000 buys.

With Fury’s thorough dominance over Wilder in the rematch, there is concern that the third meeting wouldn’t fare as well on PPV due to the drama being sucked out of the fight. 

But according to Mark Taffet, who was the former senior vice president of sports operations and PPV at HBO, Fury-Wilder 3 could fare extraordinarily well. 

“They can potentially double the numbers the next time they fight,” Taffet said to Boxing Scene. “I think the expectations by many people was that the fight would perform better, yet, it was another great reminder about the importance of the sport being available broadly … Giving PPV projections works against negotiations. When you raise the stakes and set the bar too high with the media, you set yourself up for failure for not meeting expectations, even though you do extremely well.”

Fury-Wilder 2 had the benefit of premium advertising space during the Super Bowl with a massive promotional plan on both networks that saw various programming dedicated to the showdown between two undefeated heavyweights. The February 22 fight also didn’t have to compete with much by way of other sports as both the NFL and NCAA football had completed their seasons and no other major sporting event had been programmed opposite the heavyweight tilt. 

Unfortunately, what was projected to be a fight that would reel in massive numbers ended up falling short of the 1 million mark. The man who oversaw nearly 200 HBO pay-per-view events has an idea why the fight didn’t live up to the lofty PPV buy expectations. And it has to do with how he gauged the interest of the casual fan during his tenure at HBO.

“I would ask (my two brothers), are you watching the fight Saturday.’ If they said, ‘yes’ I knew we had 1.5 million buys. If they said ‘no’ I knew we would struggle,” Taffet revealed of his unconventional, yet seemingly effective strategy. “When I asked them about Wilder-Fury 2, they said ‘no’ even though they were two great fighters and characters. They generate a lot of interest and publicity, but they haven’t yet connected in larger environments that every person talks about them.”

Aside from Fury’s dominance over Wilder playing a factor in the hype heading into a third fight, there is concern that the coronavirus pandemic would also impact PPV buys due to the impact on the economy and employment for potential buyers. 

Taffet said that the pandemic will certainly impact the event, but not in the way some would think. Instead of fans being unwilling to part ways with their money, the current manager of Claressa Shields believes the fight will satiate fans who are yearning for live sports once the pandemic subsides. 

“You have to let the fighters build, and then expose them. Their last fight was a great one, and it ended up being seen by large audiences, even on a delayed basis,” said Taffet. “People think PPV is easy until they do it. 20/20 hindsight proves how difficult it is to convince people that they should stay home and spend good money that they work hard to watch a boxing match.”  

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