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Boxing Needs Big Tech, So Tyson-Paul on Netflix Must Succeed

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Boxing Needs Big Tech, So Tyson-Paul on Netflix Must Succeed

Former undisputed heavyweight world champion Mike Tyson is fighting Jake Paul at AT&T Stadium on Saturday July 20. It is expected to be the most-watched boxing match since the advent of cable television (or at least the explosion of it in the late 1980s).

That might sound absurd. Tyson is 57 years old. Paul is a social media star turned professional boxer with just 10 professional bouts under his belt.

But because the best and highest-profile combat sports content has resided almost exclusively on pay-per-view for the last 40+ years, few fights have become broader cultural events the way this one is destined to.

Tyson-Paul will air on Netflix, a platform with more than 260 million paying subscribers across 190 countries. And any one of them will be able to tune in and watch live.

“There hasn’t been a star-studded fight of this magnitude distributed this widely on a single platform since the days of Muhammad Ali,” Nakisa Bidarian (founder, Most Valuable Promotions) said.

The goal for MVP, who is promoting the card, is for Tyson-Paul to become the most streamed sporting event in U.S. history. 23 million people tuned in to watch the Jan ’24 NFL playoff game on Peacock.

With Netflix’s reach, it just might.


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Boxing was, at one time, a tier one sport. Fights aired on broadcast television and general market viewers would tune in. 

The sport’s decline in relevance, at least here in the U.S., started once the best fights began migrating to pay-per-view in the 1980s. 

“It’s not about there were stars or there aren’t big stars anymore, people no longer had the ability to see the sport’s top fighters on a consistent basis, on a channel that they had access to through their existing television bundles,” Bidarian said.

Now, the expectation is one must pay up to watch a marquee bout. And, as a result, boxing has largely been out of the public consciousness since–save the rare spectacle (think: Mayweather-Pacquiao or Mayweather-McGregor).

“Creating barriers to entry is going to, over time, decrease the mass consumption of any product,” Bidarian said.

MVP hopes its July event will help to flip the sport’s trajectory.

The promotion company could have pursued the tried and true PPV model, and may have made more money than Netflix will pay out. But Bidarian recognizes reach is critical to build awareness of fighters, and perhaps more importantly, to develop the next generation of boxing fans; particularly in a world where the micro consumption of content is consistent and attention spans are short. 

“Think about pay-per-view,” he said. “You’re consistently asking fans to pay $60, $70, $80 to watch live when the highlights will be available 30 seconds later on the internet for free. That dynamic just kills the ability to build a consistent audience that cares about the sport.”

For context, Jake Paul participated in the 3rd (vs. Tommy Fury) and 5th (vs. Nate Diaz) most Google searched sporting events in the U.S. in 2023.

“That’s a crazy stat when you [consider] all the NFL, college football, and NBA games [played],” Bidarian said.

But only a small percentage of those curious fans bought the PPV cards. The rest waited to catch the finish on social channels.

“Netflix should capture [a large portion] of that audience,” Bidarian said.

It is the most widely distributed subscription streaming service. The platform is believed to reside in close to 700 million homes worldwide (remember, one account can be used across multiple properties).

And there won’t be an additional paywall to view the event.

"It's exciting when we get to continue working with partners in new and different ways like we are with Nakisa and MVP,” Gabe Spitzer (VP of nonfiction sports, Netflix) said. “The drama of sports is always evolving and we're excited to do that in the ring of boxing.”

If MVP simply sought to reach the largest audience, YouTube might have been a distribution option.

“But that’s not a platform that consumers identify with watching premium long-form content,” Bidarian said.

YouTube also doesn’t pay rights fees for content. Content creators receive a portion of the advertising dollars generated against their programming.

There isn’t a long line of cable networks writing checks for boxing right now, either. HBO and Showtime have both left the sport. ESPN, DAZN, and Amazon are among the few U.S. outlets still regularly distributing fights.

The sport likely needs big tech to invest. It’s hard to imagine there will be enough money left inside the linear TV system for future growth to come from the cable networks.

So, there’s a lot at stake with this event. Netflix (and perhaps some of the other tech giants) will want to see results from a fight card of this magnitude.

Success will likely to be measured in terms of viewership, the number of new subscribers it drives to the platform, and any impact it has on churn rates.

“The performance of this event will probably shape [the company’s] thinking on boxing,” Bidarian said. “And it should.” 

Early indications are those feelings will be positive.

Earned media, digital reach, social media engagement, and sign-ups for access to ticket pre-sales (96,000 through April 2) have all exceeded expectations.

Perhaps that shouldn’t be a surprise. The event’s star power spans multiple generations, and crossing over is the key to maximizing the audience (see: sports x music). 

While the main event appeals to casual sports fans, there will be programming for the hardcore fight fan too. The undercard will feature current top-tier fighters and young undefeated prospects facing one another. Earlier this week, it was announced Katie Taylor-Amanda Serrano II will be the co-main.

“By the time we’re done announcing the full [July] fight-card, we will have a product offering that motivates viewership from grandparents to grandchildren,” Bidarian said.

If that’s the case, and the event turns out to be a massive success, expect MVP and Netflix to do a lot more business together in the years ahead.

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