Danny Flexen explores the move from DAZN into the UK market and what it might mean for BT and Sky Sports boxing
Cheaper by the DAZN? That appears to be the key question on most UK boxing fans’ lips following the news that global streaming app DAZN is to launch in this country with the next Canelo Alvarez contest on May 2, at a reported starting cost of either £4.99 or £9.99 per month. This immediately seemed a bargain, certainly at the lower estimate, until observers rapidly identified the glaring downside. Unless one only subscribes to Sky Sports, BT Sport or both for boxing, DAZN’s entry into the already competitive landscape brings additional cost to the fan, however minimal.
This may be especially galling for Sky customers who will likely see the Matchroom USA and selected Golden Boy shows they have taken for granted since DAZN launched in the US move to its native platform. Regardless of future machinations, that development in itself would necessitate a greater outlay for Sky viewers who wish only to maintain their boxing content status quo.
Of far greater concern, to both Sky and BT as well as fans, is how this move could impact the sport, and the way in which it is broadcast and digested, going forward.
Sky have separate deals with Anthony Joshua and Matchroom Boxing, both of which are set to expire in around a year. Negotiations for an extension have already begun, as they have between Frank Warren and BT.
The danger, more immediate for Sky given the close and lucrative professional relationship Hearn already enjoys with DAZN, is that the new player is part of the wealthy Perform Group and may be able to outbid the established broadcasters, who have to budget for myriad sports aside from boxing of course, and corner the boxing market. Sky would be left initially with some MTK Global cards, BT even fewer.
Sky Sports Boxing Development Adam Smith told us on Wednesday (video beneath this article) he welcomes the new competition and is approaching the fresh Matchroom talks with optimism. But the substance of those conversations will surely now change, if not the amiable tone.
Further down the line, the real worry is that DAZN’s emergence in an already polarised marketplace will only exacerbate the issue, prevalent in the US where ESPN and Fox (via PBC) are also hugely influential, of keeping fights ’in house’ and hindering desirable fights that match boxers from separate ’sides of the street.’ Think Terence Crawford vs Errol Spence.
For boxers, if this has a similar impact to the initial American surge, they can expect bigger purses on the whole, with more dates to fill and a battles for eyes, hearts and minds. They will be the biggest beneficiaries and perhaps that is as it should be.
Competition tends to enhance consumer choice, if not always overall quality. There is also the possibility that the presence of DAZN limits the pay-per-view option among other broadcasters to only the truly big fights. Fans also may well have the option to watch fights that would not have been made without the DAZN money raising the bar. But ultimately we will have to pay for that choice, or miss out on a comprehensive experience.
Fascinating times indeed but almost inevitably costly ones too.