Are the Ropes now holding DAZN up? It feels like it

03/30/2023 - By G.E. Simons - Comments

Listening to DAZN’s Executive Vice President, Joe Markowski, defrag his hard drive about content consumption, scalability, optics, brand equity, sports fandom data, key markets and super-saver, ultra-flexible fan friendly payment plans in pretty much any interview he does, is a glorious but depressing lightening rod of where DAZN are at.

Much of the content they pump out could just as easily be ‘Pets do the Wackiest Things’, ‘Homes Decorated in a Certain Fashion’, Soft Core Pornography, ‘Young People Wearing Clothes’ or ‘Eating Beef Burgers in the Outdoors’, if that content paid more.

With their truly horrifying Misfits ‘boxing’ series, they already combine some of the above with the justification that it brings new fans to the sport in which Muhammed Ali participated. Classic.

The DAZN Group is majority-owned by Access Industries, whose chairman and founder is Ukrainian-born, multi-billionaire, Sir Leonard Valentinovich Blavatnik, which is surely why the years of alleged layering losses, haven’t seen the streaming service collapse.

The recent pricing re-structure and classic semantics of describing the revised subscription options as; ‘Monthly Saver’, is actually a ‘Monthly Outgoing’ of £9.99 if you commit to a year of boxing programming, the quality of which you have absolutely no assurance of.

‘Flexible Pass’ which is actually ‘Covert Pay per View’ at £19.99.

Or ‘Annual Super Saver’ at £99.99, which is really ‘Pay up Front for a Year for a Slight Discount’ but without knowing what fights you will see for this commitment.

Does this suggest that Blavatnik’s billions are nearing the end of their support for a concept that BoxNation, ahead of their time perhaps, thoroughly examined a decade ago. I think so.

Back when Matchroom Boxing left the success and security of their long relationship with the SKY Sports broadcasting machine back in July 2021, for a more collaborative partnership with DAZN, it was a significant one.

‘Game Changed’ was the mission statement back then and things have changed for sure. Maybe not for the better however, other than the generational wealth the move has generated for the Hearn family. That’s no criticism, in fact it’s a compliment to their acumen.

But you really do wonder about the longevity of the Matchroom DAZN axis, because the former’s stable of quality is migrating like songbirds at the moment, with that solid talent now roosting at Boxxer / SKY and Queensbury / BT Sports.

Who remain the jewels in the Matchroom crown? Anthony Joshua, a man just one defeat away from retirement. Saul Alvarez, a man in the final knockings of a great career. Katie Taylor, a fighter in the departure lounge. And…

Yes, a number of talented fighters and possible future stars remain on their books, but without the mainstream machinery and multi-platform output of SKY and even BT Sports, how are you going to begin building and promoting careers from a scratch on a streaming App. Right now at least, you really won’t.

And let’s not be seduced by DAZN’s new availability at Channel 429 on the SKY platform. That’s not a SKY channel, it’s hosting in just the same way that Babestation is hosted. Just means you can watch the App on the telly now in a fractionally easier way than when it didn’t have a remote press channel number, that’s all.

That said, it may be that DAZN will now be screened in more public venues such as pubs and bars if the landlord is inclined to switch channels from the holy grail of SKY Sports on a Saturday night. Let’s see on that.

So, where does that leave us. Well, in the UK the current DAZN pricing structure has alienated the bulk of boxing fans, the dearth of Matchroom core talent and a seeming emphasis on non-UK fights doesn’t help drive subscriptions and the end game being in sight for their big names leaves the partnership very much on the ropes doesn’t it?

Elsewhere, Frank Warren is enjoying an Indian Summer with BT Sports and the upstart Ben Shalom and his Boxxer outfit are increasingly producing cards and events that improve by the month on SKY Sports.

So it is Game Changed after all. And it will ultimately change again. Just imagine if AJ loses this weekend.