For a British-based multinational company owned by Britain’s richest man, DAZN has not packed a particularly potent punch in Britain since its launch in 2016. At the start of June, the sports streaming service landed its first significant blow in the UK, signing a five-year deal with Matchroom, the boxing promotion business that had previously been linked to British pay-tv giant Sky Sports.
Founded by Barry Hearn in 1982, Matchroom has grown from managing the careers of Steve Davis, Jimmy White, and many of the other stars of snooker’s 1980s boom to becoming arguably the most important boxing promoter on the planet.
Matchroom’s stable includes boxing’s most bankable global star Canelo Alvarez, heavyweight champ Anthony Joshua, arguably the world’s best female fighter Katie Taylor and dozens of other top fighters from the UK, Ireland, and elsewhere.
While talking to the Athletic regarding DAZN deal, Hearn said, “The investment comes in the quality of fights and from being able to do that without asking the fans to put their hands in their pockets on a pay-per-view level. That investment will come from the broadcaster now, effectively paying for those fights. But this deal is also a great moment for our production and content business, Matchroom Media, who will now be in charge, with DAZN, of the live production for all our fight nights, the build-up, shoulder programming, and developing the talent team, from presentation to commentary to analytical talent.”
Hearn also insisted that some of the best bouts will be seen on Dazn after this deal. However, broadly speaking, when you ask rights-holders in the more mainstream sports in the UK and US about DAZN, the so-called “Netflix of sport”, you tend to get a mixture of enthusiasm and frustration.
Having launched in Austria, Germany, Japan, and Switzerland in 2016, the OTT service now has an impressive portfolio of sports rights in those markets, including NFL and Premier League games, as well as domestic Bundesliga rights in Germany. Italy and the US were the next to be targeted in 2018. Progress has been slower there but the boxing-led proposition in the US is starting to gain traction, while DAZN has just made its biggest single bet, £2.15 billion over three years, on the live rights to all 10 Serie A games a week in Italy, seven of them exclusively. But the big question remains – will this deal be the revival boxing needs?