Showtime, HBO Join Forces on Mayweather-Pacquiao Pay-Per-View Production

It is, perhaps, the most hyped sporting event of the year, and Showtime and HBO had just over two months to throw a television production together for it.

The long awaited bout between Floyd Mayweather and Manny Pacquiao is finally upon us and two boxing television rivals are joining forces to produce what will be — based on almost all predictions — the most lucrative pay-per-view fight in boxing history.

Screen Shot 2015-05-01 at 1.54.52 PM“When you are involved in a niche sport, anytime that it becomes bigger than a niche sport, you’re glad to see that occur,” says Gordon Hall, VP, Production at Showtime Sports. “In this case, we’re branching out of the niche and going into the fringe boxing fan that may… now decide to have a few people over their house and buy a boxing event. When you have two of the best boxers facing each other and all of this hype surrounding it and you’re the group that’s producing it, it’s very satisfying.”

A robust production compound, 18 cameras — on just the fight alone — and a special distribution truck to assist in sending the fight to more 150 countries are just a few of the highlights of a show that HBO and Showtime put together in an awfully tight window of prep time.

“People are calling this the Super Bowl of boxing, but the thing is, the Super Bowl happens once a year and you know when and where the event will be,” says Jason Cohen, VP, Production for HBO Sports. “The novelty behind this is this doesn’t happen once per year. This type of a mainstream cultural phenomenon happens once every 10, 15 — if not longer — years. I think that part of the magic of this event is that it’s not something that comes around every year and you can’t predict when it’s going to happen and what it’s going to mean, but when it does come, it does take the sports world by shock and it becomes the number one event of maybe the year.”

Special Event Calls for Specialty Cameras
The 18-camera complement may not sound large for a big-ticket sporting event, but for boxing, it’s pretty massive when you consider the playing surface is only a 22 ft. by 22 ft. square. Standard boxing coverage can be pulled off with as few as six cameras.

Showtime and HBO are bolstering the coverage on Mayweather-Pacquiao with two Inertia Unlimited X-Mo Flex 4K cameras (positioned right alongside the main game camera and opposite the main game cameras for a reverse angle) that will be hooked up to Evertz DreamCatchers for zoom and extreme slow motion replays.

The pair also agreed to upgrade their slow-motion camera arsenal by adding the Grass Valley LDX 6X camera, which will be used as a handheld along the ring. Inertia’s robotic X-Mo Blue will also be positioned at the far neutral corner. RF cameras will also be dedicated to each fighter.

In addition, there will be between seven and ten ENG cameras roaming the building acquiring content to be used on later postproductions.

“If this had been in a lot larger venue, I think we could have had a little more of an aerial presence to capture a larger audience,” says Hall, who was a part of the last big boxing production these two entities worked on together 13 years ago, when Lennox Lewis knocked out Mike Tyson. “What we have right now is really trying to take viewers inside that fight with every angle covered to really capture what’s in this 22-by-22 space.”

Buzzing Compound With International Flavor
The fight will be run out of Showtime’s NCP-14 (A and B) – which are owned by NEP Broadcasting – and will be produced by David Dinkins, Jr. and directed by Bob Dunphy, both from the Showtime ranks.

The compound also showcases Supershooters 17, HBO Sports’ primary boxing truck, which will be home to a live weigh-in show on Friday night that will air on both networks.

To help handle the immense international interest around this event, Showtime and HBO have added a special international distribution truck to the overall footprint. Inside that truck, an internationally friendly feed will be produced. Showtime and HBO will send a clean line record and isos of all of the cameras inside the arena and the crew inside will have the ability to cut around the main production to produce a version of the fight intended for networks such as TV Azteca, Televisa, Sky Germany, BSKYB, and many more.

Living Up to the Hype?
Its been a whirlwind two months for both sides of the production following the abrupt announcement of the fight back in February. Showtime and HBO have held face-to-face meetings of their production teams on three separate occasions on top of a bunch of big conference calls.

“It was like a fire drill,” says Cohen. “Everyone had to scramble to their respective stations to work on this thing with only two and a half months to go. When you think about what had to come together, its not just the trucks, the technical compound, and the number of cameras; there was also a lot of creative content that had to be collaborated on as well.”

Both sides needed to create a new uniform graphics package and on-screen look, integrate on-air talent, production and operations talent, facilities, gear, lighting, music, craft services, and a whole lot more.

“We could probably solve a lot of problems in this world, if it was just handled by sports TV operations folks like ourselves,” jokes Cohen. “I do think we were able to plow through a lot of the decisions pretty quickly without any types of disagreements. We really banged through the list in a pretty timely manner.”

Hall agrees: “We couldn’t really sit there and talk about decisions for a long time. Decisions had to be made.”

As much work as has gone into this production, though, both Cohen and Hall are well aware that more of the impact of the evening’s festivities is well out of their hands.

“This event has enormous expectations,” says Cohen. “As good of a job as both networks can do in telling the stories of the fighters before the first bell, then covering those 48 minutes [if it goes the distance], it’s only as good as the two guys in the ring can make it. I hope for the sake of the sport, and all the people that buy the pay-per-view, and everyone who comes to Vegas to be a part of this weekend, that it lives up to the expectations, which is a great fight between two fighters who are the best in the business and that it leaves people satisfied with their experience.”