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Dan Tunna on what DAZN's latest news means

What happened?

DAZN are going global with a boxing offer in more than 200 markets, including the UK.

Billed as the world’s first pure-sport live and on-demand OTT sport streaming service, DAZN has quickly become the poster child for OTT delivery since launching in Austria, Germany, Switzerland and Japan in August 2016. The platform has since rolled-out in Canada, the US, Italy, Spain and Brazil, supported by considerable rights investment and marketing spend, underpinned by a roster of global ambassadors that includes Cristiano Ronaldo.

In its nine markets, DAZN offers a multi-sport package with live programming rights across MLB, NHL, NFL, football, tennis and combat sports, to name a few, but boxing is where the streaming service really senses a strategic advantage.

In May 2018, a $1bn deal with Barry and Eddie Hearn’s Matchroom Boxing was announced in the US market, with DAZN to show 32 events per-year, consisting of 16 UK fight nights broadcast by Sky Sports, as well as 16 US-based shows.

DAZN then signed an exclusive five-year, 11-fight deal with Mexico’s multi-weight world champion, Saul ‘Canelo’ Alvarez for $365 million - at the time the highest-valued contract with a single athlete in sport. A further three-year, six-fight deal with Canelo’s middleweight rival, Gennady Golovkin, was agreed in March 2019 as DAZN fortified its position in the sport.

Using boxing as its global expansion vehicle, DAZN will now launch an English-language boxing service in more than 200 markets, ‘building on the company’s significant investment in the sport over the past two years’. The first global event on DAZN will be Canelo’s soon-to-be-announced fight during Cinco de Mayo Weekend on Saturday, May 2.

Why do we care?

As recently as October 2019, DAZN Group Executive Chairman John Skipper, said that the world is not ready for OTT - so what has changed?

DAZN has been building it’s boxing portfolio and clearly feels it’s reached a tipping point with its stable of fighters, promoter deals, bank of archive content and a defined original programming strategy, to launch a credible year-round offer on a global basis. So the question now is: will it work?

DAZN is not the first OTT provider to launch a global product focused around a single sport. In June 2018, Discovery acquired all PGA TOUR golf rights outside the US in a 12-year, $2bn deal and subsequently created the GOLFTV platform.

The key difference between the two sports is their historical International distribution models. Golf has a mature global rights market with the PGA Tour having secured long-term Pay-TV deals around the globe for decades. In the UK for example, Sky Sports will have broadcast the Tour exclusively for 31 consecutive years when the current deal ends in 2022.

But boxing offers a completely different dynamic for DAZN. Traditionally, big fights have rarely sold on a worldwide basis due to prime-time scheduling in the US making events a tough sell in many Eastern markets, plus difficulties in operating a Pay-Per-View model for various broadcasters in multiple territories.

Therein lies the opportunity for DAZN to completely rewrite the rules for global boxing distribution, underpinned by an affordable monthly subscription-based pricing strategy. The service currently costs $19.99 monthly or $99.99 annually in the US and is expected to be £4.99 per month in the UK. DAZN hopes these price-points will appeal to a far bigger and broader audience than the traditional PPV boxing fan, who has previously been asked to part with up to $90 per-fight in the US and £30 in the UK.

DAZN has a proven platform, so now it all depends on whether the supply and quality of content is enough to force the demand of consumers.

Despite its significant investment, DAZN does not have deals for all fighters so making super bouts between Anthony Joshua (Matchroom/DAZN) and Tyson Fury (Frank Warren/ESPN+ & Fox Sports), for example, is not as straightforward as it appears and means DAZN cannot ever exclusively own the boxing market.

For super fans, they will still need to invest in more than one service to get every big fight. Finding the right price-point in each market, also taking into account the programming will be English-language only, will be crucial for DAZN.

Where's it going?

Ultimately, DAZN is using boxing as its Trojan horse to further grow its brand and customer base whilst establishing and testing the platform on a global level.

The company’s ambition is clear in its rights strategy to date and they understand that, by and large, sports rights are extremely localised and only premium content will ever truly gain consumer cut through, with Skipper himself saying that Premier League rights are key to cracking the UK, for example.

For DAZN, this is all about positioning itself to land the knockout punch, in any market, when it’s competitors drop their guard and opportunities present themselves.

With every rights owner, media company, sports league and professional club looking at how best to leverage direct-to-consumer OTT services, the eyes of the whole industry will be watching with interest.

Dan Tunna is a communications consultant specialising sport, broadcast and media sectors. Find him on Twitter @dantunna

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