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DAZN: Big On Buzzwords, Short On Ideas

The Covid-19 pandemic has turned every business upside down. Forcing many to rethink ways of restoring their revenue streams while being hobbled by challenges not seen before in modern sports. Of all the outlets, perhaps no one has suffered quite to the degree of DAZN as they have bet their entire business on live sport. DAZN has spent a lot of money trying to establish itself as a player in the world of streaming. But it’s really a service that exists at the largess of its founder, Len Blavatnik, who has provided the primary funding for DAZN.

With the recent shake-up of executives in DAZN, one might think they would emerge with a solidified plan to recover from the pandemic. But what can be gathered from their recent interview with SportsProMedia, it’s just more of the same empty executive statements. Let’s look at the highlights…

“We will continue to invest in our initial core launch markets — as evidenced by the recent announcements regarding the major UEFA Champions League and Bundesliga packages in DACH, whilst increasing our commitment to becoming a global sports destination platform through increased focus on DAZN’s forthcoming global service.”

Wow! How can you not be energized by that impact statement? So let’s focus on this global launch DAZN was planning. Unlike DAZN’s bold ventures into its established markets where they challenged established sports outlets by bidding high on domestic favourites to strong-arm the populace into signing up for DAZN to see their clubs, DAZN’s “global launch” is just an offering through their app of their DAZN USA offering. Which currently features a haphazard boxing program, Bellator MMA, an ever-shifting line-up of soccer and little else.

Their GLOBAL launch is the standard puffery that “Internet” companies have always used to juice metrics in an attempt to lure in investors who are itchy because they know parking their money in US treasuries isn’t given them any return so there “HAS TO BE A BETTER WAY”. Yes, many billionaires and pension funds are working on the same business acumen of the Ronco TV ads.

But DAZN’s main issue remains the same. They exude the typical distaste for the talent that is held by many executives that rely on such talent to drive their businesses. The time of the Don King approach to fighters where you can wave money in a fighter’s face and think he won’t be wondering how much is left on the table is long gone in the sport of boxing. Yet this was DAZN’s approach when they bagged boxing’s biggest star of the post-Floyd era in Canelo Alvarez. DAZN dealt with Canelo as if he was but a minor cog in Golden Boy’s promotional wheel instead of knowing that Canelo was the whole gear.

Now, there is no end to the articles that can be written about DAZN’s missteps in the US marketplace but let’s go back to the article to dig out another nugget of the wisdom that DAZN now possesses.

“In particular, the development of non-live content will play a major role in our expansion plans,” Rushton added. “As one of the key learnings from the pandemic, the relationship between non-live content engagement and customer retention has never been stronger.

“We have a deep understanding of our customers and we will look to develop a broader and more meaningful value proposition by providing a data-driven, personally curated mix of quality live and non-live content that will attract people to the platform and keep them coming back on a regular basis.”

So despite John Skipper once being in charge of ESPN, it took DAZN this long to figure out that networks use shoulder programming to retain viewers? This is the think tank Len Blavatnik has wagered billions of dollars on? To further the comedy, DAZN once actually possessed a profitable side of their business based on customer retention when they were under the umbrella of Perform Group.

The Perform Group provided analytics for betting sites and handled websites among other ventures. But Len sold that profitable business off in order to pitch DAZN as a stream-lined business to the very same funds that are now viewing DAZN as radioactive. Granted, those industries would have been hit by the pandemic as well but now DAZN is in the position of having to rebuild what they once owned.

So where does DAZN go now? It’s hard to believe they will be able to capture any share of the market when the traditional players are now ramping up their own online portals or investing more into selling their existing ones. Despite John Skipper’s claim of having a first-mover advantage, DAZN is an also ran in the world of online streaming. I wouldn’t be placing any bets on their long-term survival.

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