DAZN seeks cash injection to secure future

Global streaming service DAZN – which has spent a fortune in trying to become the home of boxing around the world and which broadcasts Anthony Joshua fights in the United States – is reportedly seeking cash to secure its very future.

According to a report in Saturday’s Financial Times, the broadcaster has been hit particularly hard by the shutdown of live sport caused by the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

DAZN – owned by billionaire Len Blavatnik – launched in 2016 to great fanfare, calling itself ‘the Netflix of sports’, and spent lavishly for a wide-ranging portfolio of rights, including premium European football competitions and top-level boxing.

Its move into the US market in the second half of 2018 – with former ESPN president John Skipper hired to steer the ship – had a strong focus on fight sports. DAZN agreed a $1bn pact with Matchroom promoter Eddie Hearn, and  Hearn’s star attraction Anthony Joshua defended his world heavyweight title against Alexander Povetkin to kick things off. DAZN later inked an eye-popping $365m contract with Mexican superstar Saul ‘Canelo’ Alvarez.

DAZN spent a fortune on acquiring top-level boxing rights.
John Skipper and DAZN did huge deals with promoter Eddie Hearn and fighter Saul ‘Canelo’ Alvarez.

Just before the pandemic struck, DAZN, which is based in the UK but has large rights portfolios in Germany, Japan, the United States and a number of other markets, had plans to go global – again with boxing at the forefront.

But now according to the FT report the business is struggling after more than two months without live sport. It claimed: ‘Mr Blavatnik is exploring ways to inject new money into the loss-making business, according to several people familiar with the talks, with the sale of an equity stake in the business the preferred option. However, an outright sale would also be considered, the people said.

‘Just two years ago, the company was valued at £3bn when it sold a 10 per cent stake to Japanese advertising giant Dentsu for £300m. People familiar with its business said it is currently unlikely to reach a similar valuation. Research group Enders Analysis has estimated DAZN’s financial commitments on securing sports rights total at least £3.7bn.’

With its focus on boxing and its close ties to Hearn and Matchroom, DAZN had been expected to be one of the bidders for the TV rights if and when Joshua does meet fellow Briton Tyson Fury in a huge heavyweight title unification match.