London-based streaming service DAZN (part of the sports media group Perform) packed a punch in the sporting world this month with a $1bn (£736m) deal to revolutionise pay-per-view boxing in the US.
Starting from September, this eight-year deal with promoter Eddie Hearn’s Matchroom Boxing allows the platform to broadcast 16 bouts in the US, as well as 16 UK events that are broadcast by Matchroom’s partner Sky Sports. With the likes of global superstars Anthony Joshua, Tony Bellew and Amir Khan on the bill, US boxing fans are in for a treat – and for just $12 a month compared with the $70-$100 often charged for individual pay-per-view events.
Perform chief executive Simon Denyer is already describing DAZN as “a Netflix for sport”, and with its deep pockets funded by Ukrainian-born billionaire Leonard Blavatnik’s Access Industries, you’d be ill-advised not to take him at his word. As the platform expands, chief executive James Rushton is considering allowing advertising for the first time, having said: “I could see a scenario whereby we start to experiment with different types of sponsorship and ad formats on DAZN around the world next year.”
With an established footprint in Japan (Major League baseball), Germany (football) and Canada (NFL), DAZN is aiming to crack the States with this boxing offering targeting the 10 million avid boxing fans across the pond, which includes an estimated 3 million ‘hardcore’ supporters. In the process, they will look to usurp both HBO and Showtime in their boxing coverage, in what has been billed by Eddie Hearn as ‘an historic moment for Matchroom and the sport of boxing’.
Although headquartered in London, DAZN does not operate in the UK; Sky and BT’s stranglehold on the market means it continues to struggle to obtain the sole UK streaming rights. However, this latest colossal deal shows how the consumption of sports content is changing.
Oath’s study on this summer’s World Cup found that one in four viewers will be using their phones as the main way to seek out additional information: a third of UK fans are interested in on-demand replays, 18% are keen on 360-degree virtual reality stadium tours, and 15% want to see a table-top augmented reality version of the game.
With World Cup matches shown live across both ITV and BBC, the coverage is estimated to reach 76% of the UK population, with 96% of viewers having the intention to watch with others (ITV). The way viewers – male or female, young or old, short or tall – are engaged throughout the month-long tournament is changing, as highlighted at the end of the World Cup in 2014 where social engagement on Facebook pushed the overall figure to three billion interactions.
DAZN’s latest foray into sports streaming shows how deeply viewers are engaging in sports content – and it’s clearly much more than just linear TV.
Sport will predominantly still be watched live but easy-to-access content will always appeal to fans. Sky and BT’s significant grip on UK sports coverage means such a move by DAZN may take some time for its influence to be felt – but there is a market for their offering and it looks set for growth.