|Eddie Hearn - Sports Promoter and Managing Director, Matchroom Sport|
|Profile of the week|
Thursday, 17 March 2016 13:10
Eddie Hearn is one of the biggest boxing promoters in the world. He is also currently a director of the Professional Darts Corporation and Group Managing Director of Matchroom Sport, one of the world’s largest suppliers of sports programming, founded by his father Barry Hearn.
Under Matchroom Sport, Eddie Hearn promotes a number of British World Champions such as Kell Brook, Scott Quigg, Anthony Crolla, Jamie McDonnell and James DeGale MBE, as well as Olympic Gold Medallists Anthony Joshua MBE and Luke Campbell MBE.
Hearn was also responsible for creating what is widely regarded as the biggest boxing match in British history when Carl Froch and George Groves squared off for a second time in front of 80,000 fans at Wembley Stadium in 2014.
Eddie is also responsible for arranging this weekend’s huge pay-per-view fight between Carl Frampton and Scott Quigg at Manchester Arena, with tickets selling out in less than 10 minutes.
With all the focus on media, how does the live event come into your thinking?
I think as a promoter you must always focus on the live audience - that is your core, we always have arguments with our broadcasters where we play music at our events and they want us to turn it down as they’re doing an interview at ringside.
What we try and do is encompass the live arena experience with the TV experience; because that’s the platform to sell your product.
Darts is a great example that has grown because of the way the in-arena experience has translated through television - if it’s a good event live, then I think it will be a great television product also.
People will watch the darts and think ‘I have to be there’.
For us the main focus has to be the audience inside the venue. If we’ve got our Sky hats on we’ve got to think how can we make sure these fights are appealing to the man at home - if you can transcend that atmosphere, that occasion, then I think you’ve got a winning formula.
What do fans want from a sporting occasion - outside of the physicality?
In boxing, you have to create an event that has that Vegas feel - that big event feel. In order to make a huge event you have to appeal to the casual fan. I’m always arguing with hardcore fans - a tiny percent of our market - who probably don’t like us that much because we appeal to the casual fan, well the casual fan makes up the core of your market.
For us boxing has changed, darts has changed; you look at the profile of the live audience - 10 years ago the Circus Tavern held 1,000 people if that, if you didn’t have 10 tattoos and sovereign rings you weren’t allowed in.
Now there’s a lot more women, probably 30-40% are female at the arena, people are dressing up much more - it’s a night out. We took boxing from the small hall experience, to the glamour of the big arenas.
Are the arenas keeping up with what you need?
We’re trying to take the sport of boxing all across the country. One thing we did with Anthony Joshua was to box in as many key cities as possible. With the darts, it’s like a roadshow and we try to do that with boxing as well.
We’re blessed to have a lot of arenas - we use the new arena in Leeds, the First Direct Arena - it’s wonderful, the Hydro in Scotland, the O2 and Manchester are the two biggest arenas, the problem is that at 19,200 in Manchester and 16,100 at the O2, the major events sell out within two minutes - which is a great headline, but we’re missing out on revenue but not being able to grow an indoor event.
We’d love to do more outdoor events - we did Froch/Groves in front of 80,000, Anthony Joshua fighting in a couple of weeks sold out in 90 seconds, we could’ve sold 50,000, the costs improve at an outdoor event - it’s a huge occasion to hold an outdoors event, I would like an indoor venue in this country that could hold 25-30,000, but generally we’re fine with the capacities but just for the 2 or 3 super fights we could do with a bigger arena.
How important are ticket sales compared to television income that you get?
It’s different sports for different splits. In Boxing the gate revenues are far larger than the TV revenues for a regular Saturday event, if we have a PPV event, then it’s different the TV revenues are huge. But the boxing side is reliant on steady gate receipts.
I was talking to my Dad (BARRY HEARN) this morning, about the fact we had Frampton-Quigg at the Manchester Arena there was 19,200 we’ve got Joshua-Martin at The O2 on April 9th, there’s 16,100 in there, there’s probably £5 million worth of gate revenue - it’s tough , you’ve got events all around there, there’s only so much money in terms of what boxing fans have in their pockets - it’s like the bigger events you do, the smaller ones will suffer. For us the gate receipt outweigh the television income which is quite unusual.
There have been headlines about football fans unhappy with the price of tickets, what about boxing prices are they going up and have there been complaints?
It’s a strange one because you have an event like the Anthony Joshua card and we’ve almost doubled the gate from his last fight- that was for the British title, this is for a World title, we haven’t really had one complaint.
We could’ve doubled it again and it still would’ve sold out in 90 seconds. It’s about understanding the market - it’s about being fair as well, because we’re not just here for a quick fix, one event, take all the money and then go! We’ve also 5-years left on our Sky contract, so we can’t be seen to be isolating the boxing fan.
I think there is an issue with the secondary market across sport - it’s only illegal I think in football. The argument for us is if we’re selling out in 90 seconds and they end up on the secondary market, why don’t we just sell them at a higher price? We try and regulate it - we have a partnership with StubHub, I think the argument is we could charge more.
I was at the Superbowl as a guest and when the guy told me how much the ticket was worth I wanted to go outside and sell it!
With premium events there really are no boundaries. I think the British fans have a ‘have to have mentality’ and I suppose as a promoter we’re trying to create those events where you have that mentality. Anthony Joshua tickets, front row is £1,000, those are the experiences that some people will spend the money on.
You have a stable of British stars and a long-term deal with BSkyB, have you got ambitions beyond these shores?
As far as TV is concerned we have a strong distribution network for all our shows, A lot of our shows are on Showtime and HBO.
There’s a lot happening in America at the moment - there’s the Premier Boxing Champions which is a new format launched, where Al Heyman has received a lot of funding and is bulldozing all of the other promoters.
I think the UK is a good place to be, it’s a growing market - I don’t think we’ve peaked yet, but we’ve got more World Champions than ever, there’s more interest than ever, from broadcasters and fans. There still isn’t a desire from other broadcasters to pay the rights fees, the model in America, the PBC, I think is flawed, you have to receive big income from broadcasters to run a business.
Unless there is a big sponsor, I think the likes of ITV and Channel 5 and thinking “ohh it’s hot”, we haven’t got any money, but we’d like to put it on, there are some promoters that will take that risk but we’re not one of them. We need a steady broadcaster that will commit to us. We do some business with America- but it’s an unsteady surface, so Britain is a key focus for us.
For you, how important is sponsorship to the sport of boxing?
It’s important but it’s not vital - we’ve seen our sponsorship income grow rapidly, we’re starting to see other brands come in now, boxing was always the sport that big sponsors would stay away from but I think the emergence or role models that brands can align with and the changing audience is bringing brands in.
We try and tie sponsors in across the board - just because we’re at The O2 this week... in a couple of weeks we’re in Hull, where are you then when we need you?
Have you explored a direct relationship with the fans with PPV or maybe an OTT Matchroom Channel?
It depends on your relationship with the broadcaster, we’re lucky to have Sky, their on demand stuff is second to none. Even online boxing is number two on their website after football. There are channels, Box Nation for example has some good fights, that’s for the hardcore fan which is a small audience.
PPV is an interesting debate, unfortunately until big rights fees become available, the only way to make the super-fights is through Pay-Per-View model.
It goes back to people buying at a premium, if it’s the right event, people will pay. The rights fees are so disproportionate to a standard Saturday fight -it’s not like it’s 3 times the amount or even 5 times; it’s 20 times.
It’s frustrating as it limits the audience for example the fight with Anthony Joshua with Dillian Whyte did 450,000 PPV buys which is incredible, if it was on Sky Sports One it would probably have done 2 million, which would’ve been huge.
You’ve seen David Haye’s fight on Dave did over 3 million, but they didn’t pay for it - so you can’t win.
What do you think is the biggest issue facing boxing as a business?
I think politics can always affect a sport, different promoters, different networks. An example, I want all my fights to be on Sky, Frank Warren wants all his fights to be on Box Nation, so there’s the argument that his fighters won’t fight mine, occasionally it’s happened but our premium guys, just on Sky and generally on Sky PPV.
I think politics can dishearten a fan if the big fights don’t get made, but recently the big fights have been made as too much money is on the table. It’s all about the product, if you can put on great events the sport will continue to grow.