DAZN and Bellator talk up global synergies of bumper deal
By Jonathan Rest at Hashtag Sports in New York
International synergies were a key driving force behind the tie-up between DAZN, the Perform-owned over-the-top subscription service, and Bellator MMA, the mixed martial arts series owned by media company Viacom, according to the two men that penned the multi-million dollar contract.
Under the terms of the ‘nine-figure’ deal, announced in New York this week, seven Bellator events a year will be exclusive to DAZN in the USA, while another 15 will be streamed on DAZN and shown in USA on the Viacom-owned Paramount Network.
DAZN will also stream the Bellator events in its other markets of Germany, Switzerland, Austria, Canada, Japan and Italy, and the latter two countries are of particularly importance to the deal.
DAZN launched in Japan 18 months ago, armed with a 10-year deal for domestic J.League soccer rights, said to be worth Y210 billion ($1.9 billion), and will launch in Italy soon, following Perform’s recent acquisition of one of the three live rights packages for soccer’s top-tier Serie A: a three-year deal worth €193.3 million ($224.3 million) per annum.
James Rushton (pictured), chief executive of DAZN, said: “We are broadcasting in six other territories. This deal will give Bellator the opportunity to increase its exposure in those markets as well.
“At the moment, our biggest market is Japan. We are now, by any sensible measurement - customers, audience, events - the largest sports broadcaster in Japan today and we’ve only been there for 18 months.”
Scott Coker, president of Bellator, added: “They [DAZN] are extremely popular in Japan, and people there are mad on MMA.
“Also we do fights in Florence, Rome and Milan, and DAZN are launching in Italy soon. So when you put that together, there are some really nice international synergies… Partnerships happen when the goals are the same.”
DAZN's launch into USA was announced last month through an eight-year, $1 billion tie-up between Perform and Matchroom Boxing, the UK boxing promoter.
The Matchroom Boxing USA joint-venture will stage 16 major fight nights per year featuring top boxers at venues across the country. DAZN will be the exclusive home in USA of the shows, starting in September, as well as Matchroom’s 16 fight nights in the UK.
DAZN has also secured rights in USA to the second season of World Boxing Super Series, and will show all 15 fight nights featuring 21 bouts across the three weight class tournaments in the 2018-19 season.
From launch, DAZN will have a boxing or MMA event every weekend, and while Rushton did not rule at acquiring rights to other sports, he said the numbers make sense to start with fight sports.
Speaking at the Hashtag Sports conference in New York, he said: “I’m a numbers guy. We are a data business first and foremost and we have an analytics approach to everything we do. There are 50 million combat and fight sports fans in USA. That’s the size of a small country in Europe.”
Coker said the deal is a “game-changer” for Bellator and its fanbase.
He explained: “Our hard core fans will stay up and want to look for the programming at 3 or 4 in the morning, but sometimes our linear channels may not carry it live. They’ll wait for the following week to air it in prime-time to get better ratings. But it’s already out online by then. Now our fans can watch it live. We think sports should be live. Sometimes networks think differently.”
He added the DAZN investment will mean Bellator can be “aggressive” when it comes to free agency acquisitions, noting: “We’ll go after every free agent out there. DAZN gives us ability to attract these. This is a talent business.”
Rushton said: “Our investment with Bellator gives him [Coker] the opportunity to put on bigger and better shows. If they do that, then we’ll get more subscribers.”
The pricing of the US service has yet to be announced, but will be based on a monthly fee, with no long-term contract, and is anticipated to work out considerably cheaper than the cost of multiple PPV purchases from HBO and Showtime, which can range from $69 to $99.
DAZN’s Canadian service costs C$20 ($15) per month, while the platform in German-speaking countries and Italy is priced at €9.99 per month.
Rushton said of the PPV model: “We are a fans-first business. Pay-per-view TV does not provide the best deal for fans… The ecosystem is broke at the moment. We are offering PPV events without PPV. We think fans will enjoy that.”