(Internet thievery or being a virtual Robin Hood? Is the practice of illegally streaming PPV events the cause of low-quality shows or is it a justified evil in the face of a modern day con job?)
Without much publicity, Top Rank and Golden Boy have teamed together to purchase a Vegas strip club. The business model is extremely unique for the adult entertainment industry: The customer walks in, after being attracted by the top notch publicity on display all across the city, and is required to immediately empty his wallet before being allowed into the main room.
“Don’t be hesitant my friend,” a confident and friendly Bob Arum assures as he’s shoving your moolah into a big burlap sack, “You’re gonna have the time of your life. This’ll be your best strip club experience – ever. I guarantee it!”
Well, he guarantees it. He couldn’t be in business for so long if he was a liar, right? So you empty out your wallet and even hand over your lucky JFK coin because, well, your horny…and you want to see some hot girls and hopefully do more than just “see.”
Once inside, everything looks elegant as hell. A real beautiful joint. The sound system is perfect, the atmosphere is just right. Hey, that Arum guy is alright!
Then the show starts and you are beat down by one horrible act after another: An obese blonde shaking her rolls to Viking Death Metal, a French dwarf stripping to that 70’s ballad, “Seasons in the Sun” and the occasional hot chick who rushes on and off the stage for about half a song, but keeps all of her clothes on. The show lasts about 2 hours and then the lights are abruptly flipped on and you’re quickly escorted to the side exit.
As you leave in a confused, disappointed state of mind, there’s co-owner, Oscar De la Hoya, with a big smile, looking all Golden, to wish you a warm farewell as you leave.
“So long, my friend. I hope you had a good time. Be sure to register for the preferred customer card so you can come back every time you’re in Las Vegas. Next month, we’re putting together an even better show!”
Huh? You’re bewildrered now; Simultaneously betrayed by the confident old man who ushered you into the joint yet somehow placated by the younger guy at the end with the big, goofy forced smile who promised bigger things to come.
You wander the streets of Vegas in a daze until you realize, right around the M&M store, that you’ve been had…
If that sounds like pure fantasy, well, check your cable bills and compare the money spent with the entertainment delivered and you’ll see just how real the actual situation is.
Boxing promoters, in their mad dash to take every cent they can from their loyal fans have raised the prices of their events, lowered the quality of their cards and have completely overlooked other media. They are asking for 50 bucks (or more) for shows that they often, literally, couldn’t give away for free.
Calzaghe/Jones, Hopkins/Pavlik and Pacquiao/De la Hoya all delivered sub-ESPN level undercards, meaning that the PPV main event better have packed a punch or it’s pure robbery. All 3 main events turned out to be one-sided schoolings. So, if you bought any of those shows not being a crazed fan of Calzaghe, Hopkins or Pacquiao, you were robbed. Particularly ugly was the Oscar/Manny show where some good, young fighters were featured in big mismatches on the undercard, resulting in a total of less than 40 minutes of total action (including the main event) on a 3 hour, 55 dollar PPV.
The promoters will cry innocent about not knowing how their cards will turn out because, after all, they are legit sporting events and no one can guarantee that any legit sports event will be exciting and compelling. But don’t believe them. Just as the hardcore fans can look at a card beforehand and tell you the liklihood of it being good or not, the promoters know as well…and their insistance on crap shows is because they’re trying to make more money by delivering inferior goods to the consumer: Delivering crap to us, the loyal fans who have supported their fighters and their shows for years and years!
So, what happens when a conned, slighted and unappreciated (not to mention economically-challenged) Madcow finds out that the latest 50 buck PPVshow is easily available for free via my good ol’ laptop? Well…you know, don’t you?
There are dozens, and sometimes hundreds, of available streams (unauthorized internet transmissions) ranging in quality from crude productions where someone points his webcam at the TV screen to HD quality transmissions. Most are free, with some just asking for an optional donation to be made via paypal. Sure, the quality isn’t as good as watching the show on your TV, but most streams are very watchable and, above all, they’re free.
Recently, the promotional organizations and the cable companies have begun to crack down on these illegal streams, but as one is shut down, another opens up and, to make things harder to enforce, the best quality transmissions are often shown in private internet rooms which are password protected. One private viewing room for the Pacquiao/De la Hoya fight at over 12,000 viewers.
My Madcow guesstimate is that these streams are only taking away between 5 to 10% of PPV buyers, the rest of the viewers being people who wouldn’t normally have the access or the money to buy the show or wouldn’t have had enough interest to bother to order it anyway. But, still, 10% of the 12,000 viewers in just that one room is a loss of $66,000.
But how do you get upset for the guy who’s ripping off his loyal supporters? How can the scoundrel who’s stealing from the bigger scoundrel ever deserve your wrath?
Some of the people transmitting these illegal streams have a real Robin Hood mentality and are doing what they do out of a sense of justice while others just like sticking it to the man. In either case, if the promoters hadn’t boosted prices, lowered quality and fostered a sense of ill will among fans, there wouldn’t be such a race to rip-off their product.
Promoters point to dismal PPV buy rates as a consequence of intenet thievery, but they fail to acknowledge their own guilt in the matter. Maybe the illegal streams did affect their sales numbers, but what’s to say that potential buyers weren’t chased into the welcoming embrace of internet thievery by the lousy PPV card? After all, people are willing to pay the money. 1.4 million paid to see The Golden Boy get thrashed and nearly 500,000 paid to see Margarito vs. Cotto, two less-than-mainstream fighters, in a competitive battle.
So, what does less than 200,000 buys for Hopkins/Pavlik and less than 250,000 buys for Calzaghe/Jones tell you? It’s not that fans are adverse to paying for shows, they’re just adverse to paying for crappy shows and contrary to popular belief, we know the difference.
As the economy struggles and technology advances, boxing promoters are faced with a dilemma- Improve the quality of their shows or lower their prices in order to regain those 5 to 10% lost to internet streams or learn to roll with the punches and use the existing technology to offer their own low-priced, high-quality streams. My bet is that they won’t do anything, preferring to chug along and fall on their faces a few more times before realizing that change has to be made. Never trust in the common sense of a previously successful con man.
Booze. Broads. Boxing…The Holy “B” Trinity of Madcow’s existence.
I don’t have a problem paying good money for any of these, but you better deliver. And if you don’t, you better not even think of blaming me. If you’re trying to rip me off after so many loyal years as a consumer, there’s no dilemma in me taking my loyalty away.
In other words, screw you…
(Madcow will be back next Sunday with his normal “The Standing 8 Count” column.)