With pirate IPTV services first seeping and then exploding into the mainstream around 2016/17, the launch of streaming service DAZN provided hope of a viable alternative.
Initially made available in Germany, Switzerland, Austria and Japan, DAZN’s mission to provide affordable access to live and on-demand sports content was exactly what fans had been crying out for. Having grown tired of waiting, millions had already switched to pirate IPTV services but with a new approach, fresh-faced DAZN might even begin to win some back.
We are basically saying pay-per-view sucks
In December 2018, with Mexico’s Canelo Álvarez set to take on Britain’s Rocky Fielding the very next day, the Evening Standard interviewed DAZN’s then-CEO, Simon Denyer. After securing an eight-year boxing rights deal worth $1 billion, the plan was to ditch expensive one-off payments for big events in favor of steady, $10-per-month subscription packages.
“We are basically saying pay-per-view sucks,” Denyer said.
DAZN’s marketing drilled that message home – and then some.
Even those with a fundamental understanding of the boxing business could’ve predicted how this was likely to pan out.
The world’s best fighters live for big paydays, specifically the multi-multi-multi million dollar kind that are typically sustained by a solid PPV model. So, after onboarding subscribers on a PPV-sucks basis, DAZN told its customers that big fights would be available on the DAZN platform, on a PPV basis.
With other market forces already biting hard, DAZN followed up with a recent announcement heralding huge price increases for its regular subscription packages.
In the wake of almost doubling standard subscription rates in the United States and other key markets, DAZN will have to work hard to win new subscribers. Retaining the 20 million customers it already has will be a challenge too, but one that can be made easier by eliminating cheaper competitors operating in the same market.
DAZN Joins Rivals to Fight Piracy
Having lost more than $6 billion since launch in 2016, with an operational loss of $1.3 billion in 2021 alone, DAZN’s affordable content strategy appears to have issues. In 2021 it acquired soccer match rights in Italy and Germany, but since they are incredibly expensive, that meant doubling the price of subscriptions in those countries.
In a move to ensure that customers have no cheaper options, this week global anti-piracy coalition Alliance for Creativity and Entertainment announced that DAZN had become its latest member. Along with dozens of other corporations facing similar issues, DAZN will help to disrupt pirate streaming services all over the world.
“Intellectual property theft of live sports content is an industry issue, negatively impacting all sports and sports fans, and it needs a global concerted effort to meaningfully tackle it. ACE is the natural home for the Sports Piracy Task Force, given their track record, reputation, and experience in delivering effective programs of action,” says Shay Segev, DAZN Group CEO.
ACE Sports Piracy Task Force
Launched this week, the ACE Sports Piracy Task Force currently consists of beIN Media Group and DAZN, but the plan longer term is to bring other sports rightsholders on board to tackle what is increasingly viewed as a global threat.
“With every new member, our global network becomes more powerful and more effective at targeting and shutting down the piracy operators that threaten the media, entertainment and live sports economy and consumers,” says Jan van Voorn, Head of ACE and Executive Vice President and Chief of Global Content Protection at the MPA.
DAZN Chief Operations Officer Ed McCarthy describes the move as good for broadcasters and fans alike.
“Working with ACE, beIN, and other broadcasters and rights holders, the task force will pursue the criminal operators who are damaging sport at all levels, often using fans’ credit cards and data [for] illegal purposes. DAZN stands with ACE in the fight to eradicate the global theft of content,” McCarthy says.
Sports Rights Cost Billions
For perspective on what helps to drive up subscription prices and provide oxygen to illegal IPTV providers, the cost of broadcasting licenses is informative.
In 2021, DAZN won the rights to screen live Serie A soccer matches in Italy for three seasons. That deal will cost the company $2.7 billion. In the same year, DAZN and Movistar won the rights to broadcast Spanish soccer matches for five seasons. According to LaLiga, that deal is worth 4.9 billion euros ($5.37 billion).
A deal in the UK to screen Premier League matches is split unevenly between Sky, BT and Amazon. It covers just two seasons (2023/24 and 2024/25) and is believed to be worth in the region of £5.1 billion ($6.4 billion).
DAZN chief executive Shay Segev recently told The Times that obtaining Premier League rights is a priority for the company. Counterintuitively, a successful bid could also fuel piracy.
UK football fans currently need to subscribe to three streaming services to watch all available matches. DAZN getting in on the action raises the prospect of UK fans having to subscribe to four platforms to watch all televised matches. Or maybe even five, if Apple decides to get involved.