Boxing: BBC floored by Sky in battle for Tyson fight

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The Independent Online

In the end BSkyB took less than 48 hours to beat the BBC in the bidding war for the right to screen the World Heavyweight Championship fight between Lennox Lewis and Mike Tyson

On Wednesday executives at the BBC confirmed they had entered into negotiations for the exclusive right to screen the fight in Britain with a total package bid said to be £5m. But yesterday afternoon sources at BSkyB revealed the satellite channel had secured the rights on the promise of a percentage of pay-per-view rights for the bout in Memphis at 4am British time on 8 June.

At the start of the week the BBC was thought to have a chance because EMTV, a subsidiary of the troubled German media company Kirch, which owns the rights to the fight, favoured a guaranteed payment over a percentage of sales. But an optimistic assessment of BSkyB's likely audience appeared to have influenced the final decision.

Another possibility is that the criticism the BBC received after its bid was leaked could have weakened the corporation's desire to stay in the race for a fight that could have led to even more criticism.

When news of the BBC's bid became public, the corporation was quick to deny it would bid £5m for a single sporting event. What has since become known is that the corporation's bid was part of a package that would have guaranteed Lewis's British-based promoters, Lyon, a guarantee of several dates on the BBC.

The Lewis-Tyson pay-per-view audience is expected to exceed the 660,000 sales achieved by BSkyB's first pay-per-view event, between Tyson and the British boxing idol Frank Bruno in 1996.

The pay-per-view price will be £14.95. BSkyB and EMTV clearly believe that, even in the middle of the England football team's group matches at the World Cup finals, the revenue raised will exceed the BBC's offer.