Top Rank Takes Control of Its Production Destiny for Pacquiao-Vargas PPV
After years of teaming up with HBO or Showtime to produce and distribute high-profile PPV boxing telecasts, fight promoter Top Rank will go it alone this Saturday when Manny Pacquiao returns from his brief retirement to face WBO welterweight titleholder Jessie Vargas at UNLV’s Thomas & Mack Center. Top Rank has overseen the international-feed and in-arena productions for all its previous PPV fights, but Pacquiao-Vargas marks the rare occasion in which Top Rank Pay-Per-View will be entirely in charge of the domestic telecast production and distribution.
“Top Rank is in control of the event from top to bottom,” says Top Rank Executive Producer Brad Jacobs. “We always run our arena production and our own international version of the broadcast as it is anyway, but now we’re adding the pay-per-view broadcast element, which is nothing new to any of the [production crew] in for the event. Everyone here is very experienced with these types of events.”
Domestic and International: One Production for Both
Typically for the international feed, Top Rank takes the domestic PPV feed (from HBO or Showtime) and augments it with a handful of unilateral cameras, branded graphics, and separate announcers. However, on Saturday, Top Rank will produce a single feed for both domestic and international broadcasts. To do so, the company has rolled out a crew of roughly 60, the F&F Productions’ GTX-8 mobile unit, and 10 cameras at the arena.
All on-air elements will be 100% Top Rank-branded, including a new graphics package launched this year and a handful of augmented-graphics elements to match the high-profile PPV scale.
At the front bench will be two long-time Top Rank boxing veterans: producer John Fratzis and director Marty Corwin.
“We’re very happy with the crew we’ve got on hand to pull this off, led by John and Marty, who are very aware of our events,” says Jacobs. “I think, too, the end user will be very pleased. There should be nothing that they feel is missing from the broadcast. We feel we’re going to deliver as good or better a product than anyone else does in this genre.”
Big-Name Talent for Big-Name Fight
When it was announced in September that Top Rank would be handling the Pacquiao-Vargas PPV in-house, owner Bob Arum stated that he hopes to change the “status quo” of PPV productions with the move. In an effort to legitimize the fight as a top-tier product, Top Rank went out and got top-tier talent.
MLB Network’s Brian Kenny (who called Friday Night Fights on ESPN for years), ESPN’s Stephen A. Smith, and Top Rank fighter Timothy Bradley (who has fought both Pacquiao and Vargas) will serve as ringside announcers.
“We’ve got a big event with Manny Pacquiao, one of the top boxing stars of all time, so you’ve got to build an event around him and bring in talent that’s equal to his stature,” Jacobs explains. “Steven A. Smith is a well-known commodity in the sports world; our old friend Brian Kenny is well-established, not only in baseball but boxing as well; and Tim Bradley is a former world champion who has fought both guys. I think that we’ve got a sensational team.”
In addition, Fox Sports personality and Extra co-host Charissa Thompson will host the event, and Top Rank TV reporter Chrystina Poncher will handle interviews. Jacobs notes that Thompson will have a “unique host position that’s a little different from what you might be used to” for the PPV telecast.
“It will definitely be a nice position viewpoint for Charissa to work from,” he says. “You’re going to see some celebrities, fighters, and other members of the broadcast team up there. It will be a little fluid, based on what’s happening during the night.”
However, Top Rank’s production efforts aren’t just limited to fight night. The promoter is producing a new online video series, dubbed ALL IN: Pacquiao-Vargas, that is designed to bring fans closer to the action and the event. HBO and Showtime have previously produced behind-the-scenes series leading up to major PPV fights with 24/7 and All Access, respectively.
“We’ve made a tremendous investment in [ALL IN] – not just financially, but also in the power of social media,” says Jacobs. “We know the fans really enjoy the behind the scenes look at the fighters, so we have developed this web series that goes inside both camps. We have a documentary-styel crew in each camp following the fighters all week through all the public ceremonies like weigh ins and press conferences and things of that nature, and also they’re behind the scenes prepping for the event, working out, running at 5 in the morning, whatever it is that they’re doing to get ready for this big night on Saturday.”