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NOTES FROM THE BOXING UNDERGROUND: PPV FOR DAZN?

By Paul Magno | July 06, 2020
NOTES FROM THE BOXING UNDERGROUND: PPV FOR DAZN?

I get the questions all the time now. Is DAZN dead? Is DAZN gonna die? 

Fans are wondering about the future of the company that bulldozed its way into the American combat sports scene and promised to change the entire business dynamic of the sport. 

With Matchroom Boxing's Eddie Hearn as lead promoter and network figurehead, the streaming service took off meekly, began to come on strong, and then leveled off shockingly. Now, in the midst of the covid-19 sports shutdown, the company appears to be in total tailspin. Simply put, it's hard to maintain subscribers for a service that is not providing content.

DAZN USA's issues, however, began long before the pandemic. 

Their wild overspending and inability to reach the mainstream sports fan forced them to adjust their business approach midstream. The monthly subscription rate was doubled from $10 to $20, ads were inserted into previously "ad-free" areas, and novelty bouts featuring YouTube personalities were given prominent network spots. 

And now the three deadly letters have been introduced into the discourse-- PPV.

"What's happened in the last few months is going to change everyone's business model," Hearn recently told The Athletic. "The idea behind DAZN was a subscription service without PPV and I think that was one of its biggest selling points to a fan...

"But we need to establish a model where the fighters will get the purses that their value and profile represents. The easiest way to do that is via a PPV model. The DAZN model has been so great for fighters because you get a guaranteed purse-- there's no risk, especially at a time when, for certain fights, the PPV numbers might not have been as good as you would have hoped.

"I certainly wouldn't like to see DAZN become a PPV platform because that's not the ethos behind the product. But I do think to introduce the capacity to do it would be interesting and the PPV model enables you to be more flexible to make certain fights. In certain situations, the only way they're going to air certain fights is via PPV. That's not in terms of finances, I'm talking about fights like Tyson Fury vs. AJ."

But would introducing pay-per-view to DAZN's current dynamic hurt the company?

Damn straight, it would. 

DAZN would be asking consumers to pay for lesser content and then for better content. They'd be hit twice and you can be sure that boxing fans-- as conditioned as they are to pay for anything and everything-- would balk at what essentially is the equivalent of a cover fee to enter a club and an exit fee to leave that same club. 

This is not to say that PPV doesn't still have a place in the sport. 

In a perfect boxing world, the sport could sustain itself via advertising and sponsorships, without having to pass the hat to the fans. But we're hardly in a perfect boxing world at the moment-- especially in the present tense where there may be zero live gate money due to the time-being necessity of audience-free cards.

As I mentioned in last Thursday's Mail Sack, I don't have an issue with the sport leaning on the PPV model to get it through these tough times. But there has to be a reasonable price tag attached and good quality delivered for the money. Do I trust the boxing powerbrokers to not overcharge and under-deliver? Hell no. They'll probably botch it, just like they do everything else and for the same reason-- because they're greedy and shortsighted. 

If DAZN chose to double-dip, it would be business suicide. They may need to, though. They've backed themselves into a corner and covid-19 has pretty much taken away most of their options. 

For them, it'll either be the slow road back to what was an unsustainable business model or a tough road towards a new business model that completely contradicts their supposed reason for existence. 

Boxing will probably always have a place on the DAZN USA platform, but the hassle of trying to make a profit from a niche sport pushed into a sub-niche may be too much. 

Increasingly, it looks as though the wannabe "Netflix of Sports" was using boxing as a placeholder, anyway. Boxing was a way to get its foot in the door of the American market with exclusive content while they pursued more mainstream sports. Now, they'll have to decide whether they want to rebuild the failing experiment or just move on. 

Got something for Magno? Send it here: paulmagno@theboxingtribune.com

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