DAZN UK Evaluation: 1 Year On – How Much Has The ‘Game Changed’?

DAZN UK Evaluation: 1 Year On - How Much Has The 'Game Changed'?
DAZN UK Evaluation: 1 Year On - How Much Has The 'Game Changed'?

DAZN UK – Game Changing Or Not?

Last June Matchroom ended their 25-year boxing partnership with Sky Sports in the UK to join their global partners DAZN for a five-year, nine-digit deal that would see them promote at least 16 UK shows exclusively on DAZN in addition to the 25 or so fight nights globally. The tagline of this venture was ‘Game Changed’, Matchroom/DAZN promised to significantly increase the quality of the offering on Sky and take questionable Pay-Per-View (PPV) nights off of the ‘Box Office’ platform and into the 7.99 monthly subscriptions.

Whilst DAZN has partially delivered on this promise with having nights like Parker Chisora 2 – a PPV offering on Sky or BT Sports, as part of the monthly subscription, on the whole, the move to DAZN UK has not been as grand and straightforward as expected. We are 12 months in, the quality of undercards is deteriorating, the accessibility is no better than it was 12 months ago, and DAZN has failed to get key sporting rights that make their channel worthy of subscription to casual sporting fans.

PPV Headliners on Subscription/Better Quality Regular headliners

Matchroom’s move to DAZN has allowed them to regularly deliver higher quality, world-level headline fights consistently in the UK. In the 16 completed DAZN UK shows since July 31 2021, there have been seven male world championship contests on regular subscription with 5 of those contests involving new world champions being crowned. In the 16 Matchroom on Sky Shows prior to that, including Sky Sports PPV, we only had 4 male world championship fights with two of those being on PPV and only one new world champion. All 4 of those fights involved a 4-1 or more underdog.

Matchups like Daniel Jacobs vs John Ryder are ones you’d typically see in the United States as there isn’t enough money to bring a name like Jacobs to the UK on a regular subscription and it is not a PPV-worthy fight, however, DAZN has managed to bring big international names to the UK off of PPV. Joe Cordina managed to get his title shot in his hometown of Cardiff and Leigh Wood had the chance to headline in Nottingham. Outside of world titles, we had headliners like Buatsi Richards and Chisora Pulev 2 – both major fights that you wouldn’t get with Matchroom on Sky.

DAZN promised fight fans four ‘PPV-equivalent’ cards on your regular subscription. Parker Chisora 2 and Canelo Bivol are the only two consensus PPV nights. Whilst there were strong talks of Josh Warrington headlining a PPV in May 2021, before his shock loss to Mauricio Lara, and we know rematches typically sell really well, there are many fight fans who aren’t convinced that Lara Warrington 2 is a PPV equivalent show. Even if we count that, DAZN is definitely short of one PPV night in the 12 months as there is no way Chisora Pulev 2 would’ve been PPV due to the poor quality of the undercard.

Weak Undercards/ Non-Existent Quality Co-Mains

When Matchroom left Sky Sports, they opened up the chance for an up-and-coming boxing promoter to get the opportunity of a lifetime and BOXXER managed to get just that last year with Sky Sports. Boxing in the UK went from having two major promoters in Matchroom and Queensberry to three notable players. Another TV promoter with 14 dates to fill is difficult enough due to the limited talent pool in British Boxing, but we’ve had another two significant players in Wasserman/Channel 5 and Probellum enter the market since then.

There aren’t enough fighters for 5 different promotions/TV Networks (Probellum don’t have a TV Deal) all to consistently put on shows. We’ve had more shows this year than we typically have per year in the UK but they have been of lesser quality. Matchroom used to have a big stable of fighters which allowed them to stack cards, but they’ve lost many fighters in the last 12 months, not made enough signings to replace them and lost out on the majority of the 2020 Olympic cycle outside the two they got: Galal Yafai and Cheavon Clarke.

The biggest impact of this is weak undercards. A major complaint of Matchroom on DAZN UK in 2022 is that the undercards just haven’t been good enough. Outside the main event, you would be lucky to get even two competitive matches on the undercard. For example, with cards like Ogawa Cordina, Chisora Pulev 2, and Benn Van Heerden you really only had one competitive main card fight outside the headliner which just isn’t good enough and certainly is not ‘Game Changed’, if anything it’s worse than what we had on Sky Sports.

The co-main events for some shows haven’t been strong enough. Buatsi Richards, Wood Conlan, and Jacobs Ryder all felt like they lacked chief support bouts. Fights such as Jordan Gill vs Jazza Dickens and Chantelle Cameron vs Kali Reis should be right underneath big headliners so that the quality of the show is not just dependent on the main event. Matchroom has got very lucky a few times this year that the main event has delivered because there has been nothing of note under that.

Building The Next Generation Of Headline Fighters

The major criticism of DAZN is that they don’t have the platform to build stars in comparison to Sky who can cross-promote and use Sky Sports News. However, we are only one year in and we already have a perfect example in Leigh Wood, nobody knew who he was prior to his back-to-back major wins on DAZN. Wood has gone from nowhere to selling out the 10k arena in his hometown in a major fight night and now looking towards either a City Ground or a big US night in the future.

Joe Cordina’s highlight reel KO has been seen by millions through social media and the next big Welsh boxing star was born on that night. DAZN can effectively use their platform to build a fighter into a significant draw within boxing, whether they can build a crossover star like Anthony Joshua, Tyson Fury or Amir Khan is yet to be seen.

A NEXT GEN card at the Sheffield Arena topped by Dalton Smith, who has never headlined a card and never really drew significantly by himself, has sold over 5,000 tickets for the British Title. More tickets than the likes of Buatsi Richards, Eubank Williams, and Yarde Arthur 2. Dalton Smith’s fanbase comes from his local town of Sheffield and the football club of Sheffield Wednesday that has heavily supported him. A very talented fighter, if moved right and has continued growing backing he could be selling out arenas across the country in the years to come.

No Other Sports Available On DAZN UK

DAZN NEEDS other sports. 12 months in, it’s shocking that they haven’t been able to acquire any other significant rights. There were rumours that DAZN were interested in buying BT Sport for almost 12 months until DAZN decided the BT deal would be ‘uneconomical’. This was a major blow for DAZN, but even outside of that they should’ve been looking to add whatever valuable rights they can to their UK portfolio.

The UFC rights in the UK were up for sale earlier this year and DAZN failed to beat BT in acquiring them. A move that could have seen DAZN branded as the home of combat sports in the UK and would boost subscriptions from a considerable crossover audience. DAZN were unsuccessful in their attempt to win La Liga rights in the UK too, rights that would’ve given them at least some kind of football offering.

Viaplay acquired 222,000 subscriber sports channel Premier Sports for £30 million ($35.8 million) earlier this month. Industry Sources said DAZN had an interest in this proposition as well but once again lost out to a competitor. DAZN have now shifted its focus to acquiring exclusive rights to a popular cricket competition: the Indian Premier League (IPL). It’s nearing a deal according to Sports Business but is yet to decide whether it would directly broadcast or sell on to other broadcasters.

Some Of The Best Moments In Boxing This Year

It’s difficult to say how much credit goes to Matchroom and DAZN for this, but we cannot argue with the fact that some of the best moments in boxing this year have taken place on DAZN UK. From Leigh Wood’s spectacular fight of the year contender with Michael Conlan to Joe Cordina’s one-punch highlight reel KO to win the super featherweight world championship and even Jordan Gill coming from way behind to produce a spectacular finish of Karim Guerfi, some of the most dramatic moments in British if not world boxing has come on DAZN UK.

Even outside of single moments, the cards on DAZN seem to deliver in some way for the most part. There hasn’t really been a card this year on DAZN UK without a talking point in the aftermath. The fantastic light heavyweight fight between Joshua Buatsi and Craig Richards, the controversy behind the scoring for Daniel Jacobs vs John Ryder, and the disagreement over the Conor Benn matchmaking in the punditry are examples of less dramatic but still intriguing talking points. There is always something significant that comes out of every card.

Accessibility Problems

A Huge issue with DAZN is the accessibility. DAZN For Business is still not available which means it loses out on a huge market in Pubs, clubs, and retail outlets. Most people are not going to stay in every Saturday night, DAZN needs to find a way to make their product accessible to consumers on commercial premises.

The only current ways of subscribing to DAZN are DAZN.com or the DAZN App which still isn’t available on every Smart TV. DAZN, like most other apps, should be on Sky Q. Elsewhere if DAZN wants to succeed, an app is probably not enough at the moment; although it might be in 10 years’ time. For now, DAZN should be looking to have a channel on linear TV that can be found on platforms like Sky, BT, and Virgin Media as they already do in Germany. Now, this is not all at DAZN’s door and there is the question of whether Sky would provide DAZN with either an app or channel slot at this present time.

DAZN doesn’t have any other sporting rights which means it lacks the ability to cross-promote its boxing events to casual sporting fans. Something BT Sports effectively do through their football, notably a Joe Joyce advert in the champions league and something that sky can do through all their channels and all their sporting content in addition to the sometimes overrated vehicle that is Sky Sports News.

DAZN needs a partnership where it can advertise its platform and upcoming schedule in exchange for sublicensed content, highlights, and clips. It did provide some highlights to the BBC earlier this year but with the regulations surrounding a public service broadcaster like the BBC, DAZN couldn’t get any significant benefit off of this.

12 Months on, DAZN is nowhere near where it should be.

By Darshan Desai

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