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Exclusive: Launch date, price, and first fights for 'Netflix of sports' DAZN

Daniel Roberts
Senior Writer

American sports fans are largely unaware of the live sports streaming platform DAZN, but the company is hoping that will change in September.

DAZN (it’s pronounced “da zone”) first launched in 2016 in Austria, Germany, and Switzerland, and has since added Canada and Japan. The model: All-you-can-eat OTT live sports for a monthly subscription fee. It has been called a “Netflix of sports,” both by its own executives and by British business media.

For its entry to the U.S., DAZN is focusing on combat sports. British parent company Perform Group cut a $1 billion deal with promoter Eddie Hearn and his company Matchroom Boxing in May and a second deal with Viacom-owned MMA promoter Bellator in June.

At a press event on Tuesday, DAZN will announce the details of its U.S. launch.

The service will launch in the U.S. on Sept. 10, at a monthly subscription price of $9.99 with a free one-month trial.

The first live fight on the service will be a Matchroom Boxing bout on Sept. 22: Anthony Joshua vs Alexander Povetkin. (DAZN will have a library of original fight content on the platform at launch, but no live fights until Sept. 22.) The first Bellator MMA fight will come on Sept. 29 with Gegard Mousasi vs Rory MacDonald. DAZN is also announcing two more fall fights: Matchroom Boxing on Oct. 6, when Jessie Vargas will fight a yet-to-be-announced opponent, and Bellator on Oct. 12: Matt Mitrione vs Ryan Bader.

In total, DAZN will stream around 70 fights (that’s Matchroom Boxing, World Boxing Super Series, and Bellator combined) in its first year in the U.S. Not all 70 are exclusive to DAZN. For example, 15 of the 22 Bellator fights will also be streamed on Paramount. But none of the 70 fights will be available through Pay-Per-View.

And finally: Michael Buffer, known for his trademark “Let’s get ready to rumble” intro phrase, has signed on to announce all Matchroom Boxing fights on DAZN.

Announcer Michael Buffer introduces Tony Bellew vs David Haye at O2 Arena in London on May 5, 2018. (Action Images via Reuters/Andrew Couldridge)

Perform Group, which owns DAZN, is the privately held media firm of Soviet-born billionaire Len Blavatnik. Based in London, Perform also owns a range of digital media sites, including Sporting News and Goal.com. And it recently hired former ESPN president John Skipper as its executive chairman, clearly to help out with DAZN’s launch effort in America.

DAZN’s attempt to gain a foothold in the U.S. market is significant, since the sports streaming wars are already red-hot here and ultra-competitive. Facebook, Amazon Prime, and Google-owned YouTube TV have all paid up for live sports rights. But these have mostly been one-off deals to help boost subscribers to their video platforms; none of these companies has yet tried to offer a sports-specific buffet for a monthly subscription.

The closest competitor for DAZN is ESPN’s new OTT effort, ESPN Plus, which launched in April and has a vast range of college sports (baseball, softball, lacrosse, volleyball, tennis, wrestling) and niche sports like golf, cricket, and rugby. ESPN Plus also has Top Rank boxing. At $4.99, it’s a more appealing price point than DAZN. But it lacks the busy calendar of live fights that DAZN will offer.

Why is DAZN beginning with boxing and MMA for the U.S. launch? Because those are the rights it can get. In some markets outside the U.S., DAZN has streaming rights to show NFL games, MLB games, and UEFA Champions League soccer. In the U.S., those rights are locked up in long-term broadcast contracts.

So the value proposition of DAZN for American sports fans: bypass Pay-Per-View.

We don’t think the Pay-Per-View ecosystem is working,” DAZN CEO James Rushton told Yahoo Finance in an interview last month. “Fight fans, mixed martial arts fans, come and try us.”

Daniel Roberts is the sports business writer at Yahoo Finance. Follow him on Twitter at @readDanwrite

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