Sky TV lowballs ‘Money’, scores Kiwis a bargain

With the wolves of digital disruption nibbling seemingly daily at its open wounds, it’s been a tough old run for Sky TV of late.

Subscriber numbers are tracking ever-downwards, profits are falling and competition for Sky’s lifeblood – premium sports content – is ever-increasing. The company is also locked in an increasingly bitter war with New Zealand’s two largest newspaper companies over what it sees as the unlawful digital dissemination of its content through online video news reporting.

Given the tools they have at their disposal to portray their foe as the bad guy, a battle with a media company is more onerous than a standard corporate shitfight. Fair to say, a media climate where an opportunity to kick it when it is down is never passed up is not exactly what Sky needs just now.

What Sky needs is an arm around the shoulder, a comforting pat and an ‘attaboy’. And here it is.

Snaffling Sunday’s McGregor-Mayweather fight at a price where it can offer it to subscribers for $39.95 is bloody fantastic work.

Forty smackers might seem a lot to watch a no-contest between a nasty Irishman and a nastier American – but it’s actually a steal. In the United States, punters will be forking out US$S100 for the privilege.

And before you say ‘Well, no one would pay that’, pre-fight estimates are that 5 million people in the United States will buy the event. MSNBC reports that fight will threaten the pay-per-view revenue record (roughly US$400 million) set by Mayweather and Manny Pacquiao two years ago, and could dwarf it in viewership.

Mayweather doesn't go by the nickname 'Money' for nothing.

"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 MSNBC. "People are getting together to have a great time and we surely need an excuse to have a great time."

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 countries.

The optimism over the huge viewing numbers is based largely on betting data. Bookmakers say it will be the biggest bet fight ever, with an overwhelming number of the early tickets on McGregor to pull an upset.

Ticket sales for the event, though, have been slow, probably due to price – they started at US$2500 for a perch in the nosebleeds and US$10,000 at ringside.

At $60, forget it. At $40, you’ve got me. So well played, Sky. Book me in.

The lack of demand has seen prices drop as low as US$1300 in the resale market – but that still makes NZ$40 to watch the fight in the comfort of your own home look like a steal.

New Zealand’s record for a pay-per-view event is the roughly 80,000 buys for David Tua vs Shane Cameron in 2010. That figure would have generated more than NZ$3 million in revenue.

Sunday’s equally one-sided contest is expected to generate US$500 million, making it the single richest one-day event in human history.

Quite how Sky managed to grab Kiwis a slice of the pie for $40 is a mystery. It’s not like it would have had any leverage in terms of the importance of our contribution to the event’s financial success. We’re a very small drop in the biggest bucket the world has ever seen.

Somehow, Sky’s negotiators convinced the rights holders that Kiwis - who paid $60 to see Joseph Parker fight Andy Ruiz - wouldn’t touch Mayweather v McGregor at that price. That’s some negotiating.

But, if I’m anything to go by, they are right. At $60, forget it. At $40, you’ve got me. So well played, Sky. Book me in.

My prediction is that McGregor, a decent enough MMA fighter, won’t succeed where a generation of the world’s best boxers have failed in laying a glove on Floyd Mayweather. This will be a one-sided beatdown, with one of the most unpleasant narcissists sport has witnessed emerging the victor.

If McGregor pulls off a shock win, my bold predictions of Mayweather’s invincibility will leave me looking like a bit of a dick. Either result, then, will leave me unhappy. But only $40 poorer. And you can’t argue with that sort of value.

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