BSkyB could have been down in the first round when its plans to show
Bruno v Tyson as pay-per-view came to light, but some fancy PR footwork
blaming the promoter gave it a counter punch says Graham Fleet, director
of sports marketing at Cohn and Wolfe
The launch of pay-per-view in the UK was always going to have British
Sky Broadcasting pinned to the ropes but in public relations terms they
fought back strongly and will now be looking ahead with more confidence
to the next round of activity.
If you accept that the introduction of pay-per-view was a question of
when and not if, then BSkyB can be proud of their PR efforts. Six
hundred thousand households bought into the service, technically
everything ran smoothly and, assuming our national sporting treasures
remain safeguarded, pay-per-view will never again be such an emotive
In public relations terms, BSkyB threw all the right punches. First the
selection of event Bruno v Tyson was inspired. Frank is, in his own
right, a national sporting treasure and BSkyB are renowned for their
coverage of boxing, but most importantly the sport is controlled by all-
powerful promoters such as Don King.
BSkyB were able to neatly sidestep any oncoming assaults by laying the
blame firmly at the door of the money-obsessed King - Rupert Murdoch
must weep for him! Frank’s cries of foul play - he was not cut into the
deal - meant that, whether planned or not, BSkyB were able to further
distance themselves from the decision.
The satellite broadcaster also got it right in leaking details of the
impending pay-per-view operation to the media prior to the launch of
their advertising campaign.
It would have been potentially disastrous if subscribers had opened
their papers to see a smiling Frank Bruno advertising pay-per-view, when
a matter of weeks before the same cheerful boxer had been advertising
BSkyB subscriptions without a hint of the financial horrors ahead.
Then came the full media onslaught. Saturation coverage in the Sun for a
whole week (how does Rupert Murdoch do that?); one of the most exciting
media hype operations and a BSkyB spokesperson apparently always on hand
to give the broadcaster’s version of events.
Their only mistake was a failure to maximise the goodwill generated by
allowing Radio 5 in at the back door to broadcast live from ringside in
Las Vegas. Frank Warren, Bruno’s manager was allowed to take the
Although BSkyB has successfully overcome the first pay-per-view hurdle,
there will be many more difficult decisions to be made and challenges to
be met. What will be the next pay-per-view event? How will BSkyB
restructure their subscription rates to accommodate pay-per-view and
what happens if subscribers start to cancel?
Whether you agree with pay-per-view or not, the whole story behind the
scenes should make compelling viewing.