Rivals HBO, Showtime join hands for Tyson-Lewis bout

HBO and Showtime are coming together in an unprecedented joint production of the US heavyweight championship on 8 June between Mike Tyson and Lennox Lewis.

The pay-per-view event is being shared by bosses AOL Time Warner and Viacom with the fight promotions giving equal weightage to logos of both networks. The telecast itself will be non-branded. The nets, say reports, have declined to specify an ad budget.

The bout has already reaped a rich harvest for the two networks with the telecast costing an all-time boxing pay-per-view high of $ 54.95, the reports add. Experts, say reports, expect the fight to break the $100 million sales record set by the Tyson-Evander Holyfield fight in 1997. This time round, the stakes are higher. It's a fight the public has hungered for, with Lewis having twice lost his title and Tyson's legal problems delaying the event.

The networks say they will share the pickings 50-50, except the loser's network gets $3 million extra to cover up for the fact that the winner's network will later run the bout.

Analysts however, do not expect the camaraderie between the networks to last long. Four times in the last six weeks, HBO and Showtime counter-programmed each other's boxing shows, with fans having to keep shifting channels. The bosses on both networks however realised that a compromise would have to be worked out this time when Lewis announced that his legacy as the best fighter of his era would not be complete without beating Tyson. Lewis is contractually obligated to fight on HBO, while Tyson has a similar arrangement with Showtime. Neither side has so far been willing to let its fighter appear on the rival network.

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