American sports fans are about to start hearing a lot more about DAZN—whether they want to or not.
The UK streaming service that some outlets have called the “Netflix of sports” quietly launched in the U.S. in September after already gaining a foothold in markets like Canada, Germany, and Japan. Now the company has begun its full marketing blitz with TV ads running during NFL games.
The ads feature boxing announcer Michael Buffer and Mexican boxer Canelo Alvarez. Buffer has signed an exclusive deal to announce fights on DAZN; Alvarez has signed a massive $365 million deal to stream his next 11 fights exclusively on DAZN.
In one of the new ads, Buffer delivers his trademark “Let’s get ready to rumble” call, and the “rumble” lasts for 26 seconds of the 30-second ad.
It is a long, loud 26 seconds.
On Twitter over Thanksgiving weekend, not every NFL fan loved the ad.
Yep…. @DAZN_USA new Buffer ad is the most annoying thing this year
— Joe (@RabbitOnStrike) November 22, 2018
OUCH THAT DAMN DAZN AD HURT MY EARS GOOD LORD #JAXvsBUF
— Michelle Batton (@MichelleBatton2) November 25, 2018
OK, this Michael Buffer ad is annoying, and whatever @DAZN_USA is needs to pull it. It's awful.
— Jon Easter (@johnnystir) November 25, 2018
On the other hand, the ad succeeded in making NFL fans aware of DAZN. (It’s pronounced “Da Zone,” and in one promotional video, Buffer himself can’t pronounce it correctly.) The service targets cord-cutter sports fans by charging $9.99 for all-you-can-eat sports content. At launch, the content is all combat sports: MMA fights from Bellator and boxing fights from Oscar De La Hoya’s Golden Boy Promotions (those are the Canelo fights) and from Eddie Hearn’s Matchroom Boxing, and from World Boxing Series.
The thrust of DAZN’s marketing angle is: Pay-Per-View is broken. In one of DAZN’s ads, Buffer says outright, “Pay-Per-View is screwed,” and Alvarez responds in Spanish, “Si.” It is a battle cry everyone associated with DAZN has adopted. “We don’t think the Pay-Per-View ecosystem is working,” DAZN CEO James Rushton told Yahoo Finance in June.
One of DAZN’s weapons is John Skipper, the former president of ESPN. After leaving ESPN this year, he landed at DAZN parent company Perform Group, the owner of online media sites like Goal.com and Sporting News. In August, Perform Group rebranded to DAZN Group. Skipper is DAZN’s executive chairman, steering the U.S. launch.
Skipper thinks DAZN can take on ESPN because of its singular focus: online-only streaming. ESPN, in contract, has a lot more moving parts to worry about. “It is really fun to be in a position where you are not trying to navigate a transition, where you can jump right into the future,” Skipper told Yahoo Finance last month. “I don’t have to worry about buying fights and then which one goes on cable and which one goes on my subscription service. We are a pure play.”
Still, the average American sports fan has never heard of DAZN. Once they start to hear about it, will they be eager to sign up for yet another $10-a-month service? Many are already paying for Netflix, Hulu Plus, Amazon Prime, HBO Go, and more. As Skipper acknowledges, “People are not going to subscribe to 40 different streaming services.”
Then again, those services don’t have live sports. For boxing fans, DAZN, right at launch, has a ton to offer. If it doesn’t turn people off with an onslaught of advertising.