HBO’s Tony Walker defends Canelo-Smith on PPV.
ARLINGTON, Texas – HBO PPV’s Tony Walker defended the network’s decision to put Canelo Alvarez’s title fight against little-known Liam Smith on pay-per-view, arguing that Canelo is a reliable profit generator. Many see Canelo’s performance against a nondescript opponent such as Smith as a true referendum of his PPV drawing power. But Walker has confidence he will be successful.
“Canelo has been around,” Walker told RingTV.com on Thursday. “If it was his first fight (on PPV), we might say, ‘Maybe you don’t want to do that. You need wider exposure.’ But he’s had some momentous fights – (Floyd) Mayweather for example. So the public knows him and knows what he brings. And whenever Golden Boy wants to put Canelo on pay-per-view, we would never disagree. Canelo has a history of delivering business (on PPV).” Speaking of HBO’s cable, phone and satellite distributors, who have all invested in promoting the matchup, Walker said, “They expect that the public will actually want to see this.”
Walker cited Smith’s credentials as a junior middleweight titleholder as evidence he’s worthy of facing Canelo on PPV. The two will meet Saturday at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas. Fans will have to plunk down $64.99 to buy the fight in HD.
“He brings a record with him, he brings credentials and it’s been our job to make sure people know about him, which we along with the cable and satellite distributors have done,” Walker said. “The public has to have some kind of emotional attachment to want to pay that extra (64.99). They have to care.”
There’s been a glut of PPVs on the schedule beyond just Canelo-Smith with Manny Pacquiao-Jessie Vargas slated for Nov. 5 on Top Rank’s pay-per-view arm; then there’s Andre Ward vs. Sergey Kovalev on Nov. 19 on HBO PPV; that’s followed by Miguel Cotto’s eventual return, targeted for Dec. 3, which could also land on HBO PPV, Walker said.
“I would say the economics of the business has dictated that there has to be somewhat of an extra charge to accommodate these superstar athletes,” Walker said of why there are so many pay-per-view shows. “There’s just only so many dates on the network for the fighters to have and really there’s no other choice for these guys who want to stay active. We would love to have every fight on HBO’s main channel and that’s just not possible.”
Gennady Golovkin has emerged as an intriguing pay-per-view experiment. His bout with David Lemieux on HBO PPV generated roughly 150,000 buys in October; Walker said that Golovkin needed the right type of opponent, such as Canelo, for those numbers to rise.
“GGG has worked hard to overcome in America the fact that he’s a foreign fighter and he didn’t have the natural buildup that American fighters have of going through the Olympic and being on local TV,” Walker said. “But he and his manager have done a fantastic job of staying busy, going to LA and New York, meeting with the fans, doing everything possible to make sure the fans know that he’s a committed fighter. So I think he’s very viable as a pay-per-view fighter. But you have to find an opponent that the public thinks is going to be competitive with GGG.”
As for a bout between Canelo and GGG, Walker pegged that as a surefire success on PPV. “Once Golden Boy is ready to make that fight,” he said, “we’ll be more than happy to discuss with them all the details.”
Arum has argued that HBO’s PPV format has grown stale and it’s time for something new to emerge, hence he’s chosen to distribute his own show himself. Walker argued against that view. “We think we have a very good distribution model working through the cable and satellite and phone companies,” he said. “And we will adapt. We will continue to do whatever it takes to bring programming to the public. But I don’t see it changing next month or even next year. Now, in 10 years – who knows? I can’t predict that.”
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