By Karl Freitag
HBO and Showtime have been leading the pack over the last few decades when it comes to premium boxing television, but if they look in their rear view mirrors, they’ll see WealthTV coming up fast. Since launching in November 2011, the network has regularly presented live telecasts featuring world class boxing. In 2012, two out of six bouts nominated for the Boxing Writer’s Association’s “Fight of the Year” were seen on WealthTV.
Fightnews.com spoke with WealthTV President Charles Herring to learn more about WealthTV’s plans for boxing. “We’ve been trying real hard to do a good job in taking the absolutely best fights,” said Herring. “I had some tough conversations with some promoters who bring us a card and if it’s clear who is going to win the main event and it’s very, very lopsided– we’re not interested in showing those types of fights.
“When we see a really good match-up regardless of the weight category or where that fight may be around the world or the nationality of the fighter, we’re interested. We approach from the standpoint of hardcore boxing fans and when it excites us, we know it’s going to excite our viewers.”
One area where the network has scored big is securing the rights to televise fight of hot unbeaten heavyweight prospect David Price, the British 2008 Olympic medalist who is considered by many to be the most legitimate threat to the Klitschko Brothers.
“We actually have an agreement in place for his next fights, past the February 23rd fight which is against top-rated American Tony Thompson,” commented Herring. “We’re real pleased that our staff earlier in 2012 identified a couple very large, very capable heavyweights, both undefeated, Tyson Fury and David Price, represented by two different promoters. We were able to secure deals with those promoters to bring those fights from Tyson Fury and David Price to the United States and hopefully give recognition to the ‘prospect of the year’ which David Price was recognized as late last year.”
WealthTV also doesn’t shy away from the lighter weight divisions, scoring a significant coup by landing the November 17, 2012 world championship doubleheader featuring WBO/WBA flyweight unification clash between Brian “Hawaiian Punch” Viloria and Hernan “Tyson” Marquez and the WBA light flyweight war between Roman “Chocolatito” Gonzalez and Juan Francisco Estrada, both of which were nominated for “Fight of the Year.” (The other nominees were three fights from HBO one one from Showtime.)
Herring says there are more big fights in the pipeline. “We’re working on some right now,” he revealed. “The deals aren’t signed so I really can’t speak about what’s coming up. We believe in May you’ll see another top quality fight, fighters from a lighter weight class as this fight was, and I think some of the larger networks shied away from it because of that and that doesn’t bother us at all. If it’s a quality matchup with top talent we’re excited by it and we want to bring it to our subscribers.”
In addition to David Price, Brian Viloria, “Tyson” Marquez, “Chocolatito” Gomez and “Gallo” Estrada, other fighters to appear on the network include Tomasz Adamek, Jean Pascal, Lucian Bute, Anthony Mundine, Adonis Stevenson and James DeGale to name a few.
However, despite presenting world class HBO/Showtime quality fighters, Herring is quick to point out that WealthTV has a very different business model. “In order to get some of these premium movie channels you have to pay $16 extra, one in particular through my cable provider charges me $16 a month and it just seems expensive to watch quality boxing, so we’re trying to do just the opposite. Our WealthTV in standard def and hi-def is generally offered with basic packages through our cable providers and telco video providers AT&T and Verizon and we’re trying to bring the highest quality boxing matches to the viewer where they don’t have to pay anything extra.”
The network is available on more than 100 cable systems across the country, but isn’t carried yet by all cable or satellite providers, however there is a plan B for boxing fans through a multitude of connected devices (such as Apple and Android, Roku, and Internet TVs). You can also see a live stream at WealthTV.com.
The video quality of the live stream is stunning.
“About four years ago we decided to provide our cable feed to consumers who either couldn’t get WealthTV because their cable provider couldn’t offer the service or those consumers who just decided that they wanted to cut the cord and not pay the cable bill,” Herring explained. “One of the things we wanted to do was ensure that we can deliver an HD picture experience to viewers who are watching on a computer and we spent a lot of money and a lot of time and effort to ensure that we are capable of doing so and we are pleased with what we are able to achieve.
“The quality is based on the internet connection and basically without getting too in depth we send out eight different feeds at different bandwidths and based on your internet speed at home, the service will detect which bandwidth to send you, and that will dictate the picture quality. So if you happen to really want to see a fight and your connection is extremely slow, you can still watch, the picture quality is going to suffer but you’re not going to miss the fight. If you have very high bandwidth speed to your home and you’re able to watch HD picture quality we’ll deliver that to you.”
The online service is available for 99-cents a month or $9.99 for the whole year. New subscribers get a 30 day free trial.
“It’s been about a year and a half since our staff has been involved in boxing,” Herring says. “We’re real pleased where we are at right now. It took us about six months for the boxing community to recognize that we’re serious and at this point we’re in discussion with almost all the top promoters trying to figure out what they have coming up. It’s been a real blast from a personal standpoint, I think the meetings we have internally in our conference rooms are just a joy to have to debate on what we should look at what we should pursue. I have to remind myself sometimes that when I’m in those discussions that I’m actually getting paid for being in those meetings.”
And for the future?
“I think we’re going to continue to do what we’re doing. We’re going to continue to try to offer three or four fights a month. We’re trying to get the best quality fights and we’ll continue to not worry about weight class, nationality, or venue. We don’t care where the fight is, if it’s a great match up, it’s a great match up. If there’s an accent on the announcers because it’s coming from another country, I don’t think that the hardcore boxing fan cares. If the match up is great in the ring nothing else really matters.
“I’m just really pleased with where we’re at and pleased with the acceptance that we’ve received. It’s kind of interesting at times we’ve upset some promoters because we really don’t think that the cards that they’re bringing us are the best matched cards and we do that in the spirit of boxing. I’m always pleased to have those discussions, no matter how hard it can get at times, but we really approach it from a fan perspective and we know if we’re excited by it then the boxing fans will be excited by it.”