Here is why the pay-per-view option in homes will replace closed-circuit telecasts in large arenas sooner or later:

For a big closed-circuit event like the Tyson-Spinks fight, the viewer is charged $40, for which he drives through traffic to get to an arena, pays for parking, food and drink, sits down next to several thousand strangers to watch a large (but distant) screen and then battles traffic going home.

With pay-per-view, the viewer paying $40 avoids the traffic, parking, concessions and crowd and watches the same event with a few friends from the comfort of his living room.

No muss, no fuss, no rush. Sold to the 10 million homes to my left!!

It's as simple as dialing a number, ordering an event and paying for it with your monthly bills. And America loves the convenience -- witness the fact that folks are willing to pay their local cable system several dollars a month just for the privilege of being able to switch stations without getting off the couch.

"Closed-circuit still dominates and pay-per-view fills in the gaps," said Lou Falcigno, president of Momentum Enterprises, which held TV rights to Tyson-Spinks in New York City. "But very soon, pay-per-view will dominate and closed-circuit will fill in."

"Wherever the two co-exist, the closed circuit will get hurt," said Shelly Finkel, the New York-based promoter who handled national TV distribution of Tyson-Spinks. "You get the marginal viewer with pay-per-view -- the person who says, 'I'd like to see the fight, but I wouldn't go out to watch it.' "

The TV numbers from Tyson-Spinks were staggering -- and showed the potential of pay-per-view. According to Finkel, about 750,000 to 800,000 paid an average of $35 each to see the fight on closed-circuit and about 600,000 paid an average of $35 each to watch it on pay-per-view. Because each pay-per-view sale represents several people watching the fight together, the pay-per-view audience was much larger than the closed-circuit audience.

In Long Island, 77,000 cable homes took the fight on pay-per-view -- an astounding 35 percent penetration of all cable homes in that area -- and only 1,700 went to see the fight at the Nassau Coliseum on closed-circuit.

Mike Trainer's Victory Promotions had Washington/Baltimore TV rights to Tyson-Spinks. He did not utilize pay-per-view, but he believes that once this area has more addressable homes for pay-per-view, business will move away from the large arenas.

"It's the next stage, the next level," Trainer said of pay-per-view. "It's a very easy vehicle {from a promotion standpoint}. The cable systems are partners with you, they're hyping the event. I can't tell you how much of a plus on-the-air promotion is worth, all the promotional mailings, too. I just wish we had the equipment already."

Therein lies pay-per-view's biggest current problem -- not enough people have access to it. Once the technology is in place, pay-per-view could be available to as many people as get cable (and cable is in more than half of America's homes now). In the Washington area, only Fairfax County and Howard County have pay-per-view capabilities. Nationwide, there are about 10 million homes with pay-per-view capabilities and 78 million without.

In the next five years, pay-per-view will rise dramatically. "There's gonna be a hyperbolic curve," Falcigno said. "It's just going to skyrocket. Cable is a cash-intensive business. Until the cable industry saw a lot of pay-per-view programming available, they weren't going to spend that type of money to {put in place pay-per-view technology}."

The next logical question is what sports/entertainment programming other than boxing events and mega-spectacles (like Wrestlemania) will move to pay-per-view. Pay-per-view already is doing special auto racing, golf and fishing events that have small, moneyed followings. But could it penetrate almost every other sport and leave network television executives programming upstream without a paddle?

The answer is probably yes.

Sports fans used to the good old days of TV better brace themselves: We have seen the future, and apparently we are going to pay for it. In the rapidly changing world of sports television, pay-per-view might move toward the mainstream -- our meat-and-potato games like baseball, our once-a-year treats like a national title-deciding bowl game.

The potential numbers are startling. In, say, just five years, 20 million homes probably will have pay-per-view capabilities. If a promoter got just 20 percent penetration of those homes for an NCAA football title matchup of unbeatens (Tyson-Spinks did 12 percent penetration) at $25 a home, that's $100 million. Advertising revenue would add to that figure.

As Finkel said quite simply about leagues and franchises, "They're going to opt for the money." And America has the money -- or at least the credit card numbers -- to mine pay-per-view into pay dirt.