Bout airings rile Showtime

Showtime is fighting mad after five cable networks aired the controversial Mike Tyson-Evander Holyfield boxing match in its entirety despite the pay TV company’s exclusive rights to the June 28 bout.

On Tuesday CNN, CNN/SI, ESPN, ESPN2 and Court TV aired the footage, and Showtime believes its contract was “severely violated” and vows to prosecute “at the highest levels” of litigation, according to Jay Larkin, senior VP for Showtime sports and event programming.

Yet what the five nets did wasn’t quite the cavalier breach it may seem.

The networks had cameras recording live the proceedings of the Nevada State Athletic Commission, which was weighing its punishment options with regard to Tyson’s double-bite on Holyfield’s ears. The commission played back the fight in its entirety as evidence, and CNN, CNN/SI, ESPN, ESPN2 and Court TV simply turned their cameras to the screen.

Said CNN spokesman Steve Haworth: “It is our feeling that at a public hearing where a tape was shown to all in attendance, our showing of that tape simply constitutes airing the presented evidence.”

Hogwash, replies Showtime’s Larkin. “We were astounded to sit in our office and watch these networks do what they did, and we will take appropriate action.”

Showtime was also forced to quash a reported agreement to run the fight by CBS, noting Thursday in a statement that CBS “has no deal” to replay the bout.

Meanwhile, Showtime has again upgraded its record number of pay-per-view buys from the Tyson-Holyfield rematch, to 1.95 million.

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