For Boxing Fans Not Interested in the UFC; Streaming with DAZN and ESPN+ is the New Normal
By: William Holmes
On Saturday night the number one PPV attraction in combat sports will defend his world title.
I’m not talking about Floyd Mayweather Jr., the past PPV king who has yet to officially announce the details of his next proposed fight.
I’m talking about Conor McGregor, the UFC’s cash cow who’s set to take on undefeated challenger Khabib Nurmagomedov.
Photo Credit: DAZN Twitter Account
As recently as last year, if a UFC fight card was on PPV and an outlet like HBO or Showtime put on a competing card, you could expect HBO or Showtime to still get decent ratings.
However, the times have changed and HBO is making an exit from broadcasting boxing and will be completely out of boxing by the time 2019 arrives.
The future for boxing fans is streaming, and the future is here.
One of the bigger complaints against HBO Boxing was that you couldn’t watch a fight on their network live via streaming. You could subscribe to a service like HBO GO without a cable television provider or satellite provider, but you could not watch fights live, only on tape delay. Showtime has that option for their subscribers, which reflects the inclinations of the younger generation to cut the chord and stream their programming and also reflected Showtime’s commitment to the sport of boxing.
Showtime would still probably get good numbers if they were to counter program against the UFC, but they even have a streaming option for fights available for their customers.
HBO has a wide array of programming for their subscribers and charges approximately $15 per month. Some of their consumers got HBO solely for boxing, and would shell out additional money per month for their PPV offerings.
The number of fights that HBO put on yearly has been on the decline, as well as their budget. For the same $15 a month, fight fans can get high quality fights on both ESPN+ and DAZN and a much larger number of boxing matches.
DAZN has contracts to televised both boxing and MMA. They plan to televised 16 boxing events in the United States and 16 boxing events in the United Kingdom with Matchroom Boxing per year. They plan to show 15 World Boxing Super Series events per year with 21 tournament bouts. They have a contract with Combate Americas for thirteen events a year. They also have a contract to broadcast some of Bellator MMA’s biggest events, who have named fighters such as Chael Sonnen, Rampage Jackson, Rory McDonald, Gegard Mousasi, and Fedor Emelianenko under contract.
ESPN+ also has plans to put on a large number of MMA and boxing events on their platform. When ESPN originally announced their contract with Top Rank they indicated they will show at least 12 live fight cards from the US and six international cards. They’ve already signed an extension on that deal that will call for 18 cards to air on ESPN, 12 prime-time cards that will stream exclusively on ESPN+, and 24 premium international events to be shown on ESPN+.
While DAZN has Bellator and Combate Americas; ESPN+ has a contract with the UFC, the MMA powerhouse. The deal that ESPN+ has with the UFC is for 10 UFC Fight Night cards on ESPN and 20 UFC Fight Night cards on ESPN+ per year.
In the past boxing fans who were not fans of the UFC would usually turn to their premium networks to watch boxing during a UFC PPV. This weekend, boxing fans have plenty of other options.
On ESPN+ they can watch a bantamweight bout between Luis Nery and Jason Canoy from Tijuana, Mexico and also watch a junior welterweight fight between Jack Catterall and Ohara Davies from Leicester, England in the junior welterweight division.
On DAZN they can watch a welterweight bout between Jessie Vargas and Thomas Dulorme, as well as an IBF Light Heavyweight bout between Artur Beterbiev and Callum Johnson, as well as a WBA Junior Featherweight bout between Danny Roman and Gavin McDonnell.
Additionally, fight fans can also watch on DAZN a WBA Bantamweight Title bout between Naoya Inoue and Juan Carlos Payano as well as a WBA Junior Welterweight bout between Kiryl Relikh and Eduard Troyanovsky. These bouts are part of the World Boxing Super Series and will be broadcast from Yokohama, Japan.
So while all the hype and marketing this week is behind Conor McGregor and Khabib Nurmagomedov, boxing fans still have a chance to see a high quality card from Chicago and Japan on DAZN, and a boxing card from England and Mexico on ESPN+. If you’re already a subscriber you know of the quality and quantity of boxing fights these services offer.
Finally, the streaming services offer viewers an opportunity to watch an entire card, from opening fight to the main fight, and not just the top two or three fights. This will allow fans to get a better look at prospects early on in their career.
For boxing fans, the price of ESPN+ and DAZN combined is about the same price as a monthly subscription to HBO. But the quality and quantity of content is far greater with these streaming services.
If you’re not a fan of the UFC and are looking for other viewing options, might as well sign up with these streaming services for a month and enjoy.
And get used to it, for streaming is the new normal for boxing fans. At close inspection, it appears to be a better normal.
DAZN Ushering in a New Era with Joshua vs. Povektin
By: Oliver McManus
A landmark moment for the broadcasting of boxing – if you believe the press releases, that is – Anthony Joshua vs Alexander Povetkin will be broadcast over in the States on the DAZN platform ahead of their extended, $1billion commitment (over eight years) to the airing of Matchroom USA shows.
In many ways the nature in which we consume our content is ever evolving so let’s talk about that quickly before we move onto the big heavyweight contest taking place at the weekend –
Photo Credit: DAZN Twitter Account
With boxing becoming increasingly popular both sides of the Atlantic, broadcasters are all looking to cash in on the action whilst the boom is still hot – as of late we’ve seen MTK Global sign a 12 date deal with BoxNation in the UK, Frank Warren has transitioned over to BT Sport and, in America, there have been renewed deals for PBC and Top Rank on ESPN as well as the new boys in DAZN.
All of this means that the shows we are getting tend, and I say tend because they’re not always, to be better than the quality of card we would have seen, say, five years ago with everyone involved acutely aware that, hey, if they’re product isn’t good enough then there are viable alternatives.
But it’s not just your traditional TV stations that are starting to emerge as big players in the world of boxing broadcasting – we already know about DAZN and their huge plans in America but look at ESPN+ which costs $4.99 a month, airs exclusive undercard coverage and, indeed, full fight nights from Top Rank.
It’s clear then that there is a desire to move away from the traditional and start capturing new audiences, a younger audience that, yes, consumes content on the go and doesn’t always want to sit in front of a television set, they want to watch it when they’re on a train, at a café, all sorts of things and we are seeing companies adapt to the habits of modern society.
Streaming is fast becoming an increasingly popular way of accessing live boxing and I’m not just talking about when you don’t fancy £19.95 for a pay per view; IFL TV and Boxing Social are the leaders of this particular game in Great Britian with the two platform, both on YouTube, having started off with a devotion to interview but quickly finding their feet by showing some of the best shows around the country from the likes of MTK and Carl Greaves.
And platforms like this are providing opportunity for the fighters, not just fans, to get added exposure and, potentially, extra ticket sales because gone are the days where the likes of Sam “Bullet” Bowen’s British title fight against Maxi Hughes would go unwitnessed except for those on the night – it allows larger numbers to view the sport for the first time, for free, it even helps if you’re the opponent because now you can get your hand on the footage.
DAZN promises to be an, almost, wraparound service with full fight week coverage because there can be no scheduling clashes – this is a platform where you can choose which stream – and we’ve seen Matchroom already make strides in this area with three new shows, STREAMED, in the run-up to a fight (hosted by Chris Lloyd and Darren Barker).
You’ll notice how often I’ve said the word stream because I cannot emphasise enough how key this market is to the future of boxing.
Ultimately we can take two things for the way boxing is going – a) more, better content and b) lighter wallets. But, hey, it’s a price to pay!
Let’s talk the big fight then – Anthony Joshua vs Alexander Povetkin – in a bout for the unified WBA, WBO, IBF and IBO Heavyweight Championship of the World that sees AJ looking to go 22 unbeaten.
Povetkin was showcased to the British fans, on the undercard of Joshua’s victory over Joseph Parker, when he beat and bloodied David Price over five rounds and that performance showed us that, whilst Povetkin is still crisp and powerful with his punch, he is there for the taking.
Price rocked Povetkin, sending him collapsing into the ropes, and there can be no doubt that Joshua is of a far superior technical quality to Price – Anthony’s shot selection, timing, footwork, hand placement, it’s all in a league above – so there should be no valid reason why Joshua can’t go through the gears and stop the Russian.
Of course if he attempts to get embroiled in a real fire fight then that’s where we could see some issues because nothing makes Povetkin perform like pressure, like feeling on the cusp of defeat, he’ll just come back and punch you even harder.
And when you get punched by Povetkin, you know you’ve just been hit with something real.
Having said that you would still back the heavyweight kingpin to be able to withstand the best that his challenger has to offer ahead of a, hopefully, super fight in April next year.
A new era begins with DAZN but, if you ask me, that heavyweight crown will still be on the shoulders of Anthony Joshua come Sunday morning.
DAZN Builds Up Their Content with an Eye Towards the Future
By: William Holmes
DAZN is hoping to be a big disruptor in the traditional boxing viewing model for fans and have already signed a major fight to give their customers.
The Heavyweight division, prior to the arrival of Floyd Mayweather Jr. and Manny Pacquiao, has long been considered boxing’s glamour division. One of DAZN’s biggest investments was to lock up the current heavyweight kingpin, Anthony Joshua.
With Floyd Mayweather retired and Manny Pacquiao near 40, the welterweight division’s time at the top of boxing’s money divisions appears to be coming to a close. Anthony Joshua has been selling a tremendous number of tickets when he fights. The first fight for Joshua under the DAZN service will be a good test when he meets Alexander Povetkin.
But their foray into the heavyweight division is not the only thing that DAZN has in mind.
Former ESPN President John Skipper is the new chairman of DAZN, and the company’s stated goal is to be eventually known as the Netflix of Sports. They have Over the Top (OTT) streaming rights to major sporting events in international markets such as Germany, Austria, Canada, and Japan to leagues such as the NFL, NHL, MLB, UEFA Champions League, and Serie A.
OTT streaming won’t have commercials, and won’t rely on advertisements to turn a profit like traditional broadcast media.
Marcus Parnwell, director of product at DAZN, recently told Quartz “We’ve seen Netflix build a model without advertising based on the subscription… Sport has more natural breaks in play, especially US Sports are built for advertising. We’re trying to do a different model and a different thing.”
Their acquisition of OTT rights for some valuable sport franchises will likely take some time to turn into a profitable venture. However, the American consumer has increasingly made the decision to ‘cut the chord’ which has lessened the reach of traditional broadcast outlets. Streaming options, such as Netflix, Hulu, and even the ‘niche’ market of the WWE network have been fairly successful.
It’s only logical for a streaming service dedicated to sports to eventually enter that market. Enter DAZN.
They don’t have the OTT rights to any of the major American sport leagues in the United States yet, but they have already made some inroads into combat sports in the United States and early on their focus will be on that.
Their deal with Matchroom Boxing USA is for $1billion for eight years with 16 events in the US and 16 events in the UK per year. Their deal with Bellator is for 22 events, 7 exclusive to DAZN in addition to their welterweight tournament. They also have a deal for Combate Americas for 13 events a year. They also have a deal with World Boxing Super Series for 15 events and 21 tournament bouts.
The goal appears to put on PPV style events in both boxing and MMA for a lower monthly subscription price.
They already have some attractive fights lined up for fans, including:
9-22: Anthony Joshua vs. Alexander Povetkin (Boxing)
9-29: Mousasi vs. Mcdonald (Bellator)
10-6: Jessie Vargas vs. Thomas Dulorme, Artur Beterbiev vs. Callum Johnson (Boxing)
10-7:Inoue vs. Payano (Boxing)
10-12: Mitrione vs. Bader (Bellator)
10-13: Fedor vs. Sonnen (Bellator)
10-20: Billy Joe Saunders vs. Demetrius Andrade, Katie Taylor vs. Cindy Serrano (Boxing)
Streaming will also allow DAZN to do some things that cable networks can’t. Traditional boxing broadcast outlets like HBO and Showtime only show 2-4 fights per card, while DAZN show the entire card, including the opening fights that often feature prospects and local fighters.
It’s alleged that Brian Kenny, Michael Buffer, Sugar Ray Leonard will help lend a veteran presence to their boxing broadcasts.
In addition to live fights, DAZN is also looking into shoulder programming for these events. Scott Woodgat, the director of programming at DAZN, recently told awfulannouncing.com “OTT and DAZN are all about live. The content strategy here differs a little bit from the other regions, because there’s gaps between events in fight sports, and we need to fill those gaps with various shoulder programming, which we’re looking into.”
DAZN has made investment at a base production facility at the Brooklyn Navy Yard and hired producers, writers, and staff to create original content. They also have a library of past fights uploaded in both boxing and MMA.
Subscribers to DAZN will have other viewing options besides live events.
The future of DAZN is also intriguing.
Saturday’s PPV fight between Canelo Alvarez and Gennady Golovkin appears to be the last fight that both boxers have under their current contract with HBO.
Manny Pacquiao, though older, is also a free agent and eager to fight.
The addition of any of those three, or all three, would make DAZN a very attractive option for fight fans, both the casual and hardcore ones.
DAZN currently has Boxing, MMA, Soccer, Cycling, and Cricket as sport offerings in the American market. If they are successful, it wouldn’t be out of the question to see them make a run at the OTT rights for one of the big four professional sport leagues (NFL,NBA,NHL, and MLB) one day.
But as of today, DAZN is making its mark felt in the combat sports world.
Canelo and Mayweather Could Signal the End of PPV, Streaming Poised to Take Over
By: William Holmes
“I don’t fight for legacy. I don’t fight for none of that, I fight for that check. I’m in the check cashing business.”
-Floyd Mayweather Jr.
Boxing isn’t just a martial art, it’s also entertainment. Floyd Mayweather was wise enough early on in his career to understand that having a public persona sells, and when you’re a fighter it’s best to minimize the physical damage while maximizing your earnings.
He has professed that his career is over, and it’s hard to argue against the proposition that he has been boxing’s most profitable star.
Entertainment value is not the only key to a pay per view’s success, nationalistic pride can also be a driving force in PPV sales.
Manny Pacquiao was a pay per view force in part because of it. Today, the Mexican pride for Canelo Alvarez leads many to express their patriotism with their wallet.
But the long term stability of PPV fights is at risk with the rise of streaming platforms.
New outlets like DAZN and ESPN+ now offer a reasonable financial alternative for fight fans. PPV’s were costing anywhere between $60 and $100 for the opportunity to watch one fight. $60 will get you half a year subscription with DAZN. DAZN promises to have 32 US and UK Matchroom Boxing Events and 15 World Boxing Super Series Events for the year.
ESPN+ has a partnership with Top Rank Promotions and will broadcast 54 live boxing events annually. ESPN + is available for only $5 a month.
The value for fight fans is with the streaming services, and a fight fan that’s spending $15 a month for both DAZN and ESPN+ will be less inclined to shell out another $60 or more for a ppv.
The expansion of heavily invested streaming services combined with boxing’s lack of marketable stars to the wide casual sport fan, spells the beginning of the end for pay per view.
The past two years have been particularly troubling for the boxing pay per view business. The rematch between Golovkin and Canelo is the only notable boxing pay per view fight of 2018. In 2017, Canelo’s fights with Golovkin and Chavez Jr. did well on pay per view, as well as Floyd Mayweather Jr.’s one off showcase with Conor McGregor, but outside of these two Boxing PPV has floundered.
Andre Ward rematched Sergei Kovalev on HBO Pay Per View, but by all accounts that fight underperformed and only sold 125,000 pay per views.
The money for boxing is still present for promoters and boxers alike to take advantage of, even with the decrease in PPV events. The contract DAZN has with Matchroom is worth a reported $1 Billion dollars over eight years (125 million a year) and while the official financials that Top Rank has signed with ESPN hasn’t been reported, it is for seven years and was lucrative enough to lure Top Rank away from their long time partners at HBO, and to resign one of their top stars, Terrance Crawford, to a recent contract extension.
The rise of streaming will present many problems for the Pay Per View model. The obvious one is the value that streaming provides. Fight fans will be able to get high quality fights, and a large number of them, for a substantially cheaper price than PPV.
Additionally, streaming services like DAZN and ESPN+ provide access to other events besides boxing. DAZN has locked into an agreement with Bellator MMA and provides other sport offerings, and ESPN has an agreement in place with the UFC as well as other professional and collegiate sport leagues.
The CEO of DAZN, James Rushton, believes DAZN will be a big disruptor in the industry and he believes DAZN will help change the game of Sports Broadcasting. He recently stated, “We are the world’s first truly dedicated, which stand alone, OTT live sport streaming business. We focused on what that means, is providing fans with unlimited access to some of the best premium sports content available, for one affordable monthly fee. No contracts, no bundles, all that stuff that people don’t like with traditional network television. We are live in five markets right now, and we are launching here in the US later on this summer, we are super excited. We are looking to disrupt and change the game of sport broadcasting starting off with fight sports with our partnership with Matchroom Boxing US and Scott and his team at Bellator. We’re looking forward to our first event going live on the 29th of this September with Bellator.”
The introduction of ESPN+ and DAZN into the boxing viewership marketplace will also force each to be competitive and put on high quality fights. Under the PPV model, boxing broadcast mainstays like HBO and Showtime would showcase their best fighters against boxers that would basically be considered “enhancement” talent, in order to build their popularity for the almighty goal of PPV.
With streaming, DAZN and ESPN+ will have to put on high quality competitive fights to draw the consumer away from the traditional televised boxing model to the new streaming boxing model. Tune-up fights won’t attract paying customers.
Mayweather’s last hurrah was likely against McGregor. If he chooses to come back, he will undoubtably remain a PPV attraction. But as of now, he’s officially retired.
Canelo is still in his athletic prime and has many productive and profitable years ahead of him. A loss to Golovkin will hurt his financial drawing power, but he still has that passionate and loyal Mexican base and will still be a bigger draw than most in the sport.
But outside of Canelo and Mayweather the PPV pickings are slim, and for fight fans and their wallets, that’s probably a good thing.
Is PPV Dead? Not yet, and PPV will likely remain an option for promoters who want to cross promote. But it’s on wobbly legs, and the streaming platforms look fresh and ready to go.
Eddie Hearn Announces American Streaming Service
By: Sean Crose
British super promoter Eddie Hearn has officially launched a streaming service here in the United States. According to the press release: “Matchroom Boxing, a world leading boxing promoter, and Perform Group, the digital leader in global sports media, have today announced the creation of a landmark $1billion joint venture and the biggest-ever deal in boxing.” Matchroom is Hearn’s company and it’s clear he’s making it a major player in US boxing. Hearn announced the deal on Thursday with Perfom Group CEO Simon Denyer.
“This is a historic moment for Matchroom and the sport of boxing,” said Hearn “Since our expansion to the US, we have been looking for a partner that shares our vision and that can give us the volume of dates and rights fees required to build the strongest stable in world boxing and take it to a new level.” Hearn intends to showcase 16 Matchroom promoted cards in America this year, along with another 16 from Great Britain. Matchroom will also include all the Pay Per View cards he airs across the Atlantic. “None of the fight nights will be on PPV,” the press release claims. “All will be available for one monthly fee and no long term contract.”
“This is a dream scenario for us,” said Hearn. “We can build a formidable team of fighters and also put our stamp on events from production to talent to in arena experience. Our plan is to make DAZN the home of boxing and with 32 big fight nights already confirmed from the US and UK we are nicely on our way…America – we have well and truly arrived, let the fun begin!” According to the LA Times, Hearn claims he “has $110 million per year to spend on the eight-year deal.” Such a bank account may allow Hearn to bring in the kinds of big American names he hopes to.
Denyer claimed that “Perform Group has a rich history of long term strategic partnerships with the best rights holders in world. I’m excited about working with Matchroom; we share the same passion and vision for reigniting boxing in the US and it’s time for DAZN to provide an exciting new platform for these great events. It’s a better deal for everyone – especially fight fans.” Streaming is making a huge impact on the sport of boxing recently. Aside from Hearn’s Matchroom deal, ESPN has recently begun its own streaming service.