For the first time in decades, John Skipper spearheaded a launch event for a sports network that has nothing to do with ESPN.
The longtime former president at the Disney-owned sports mainstay took the stage today as executive chairman of Perform Group (see video below). Perform’s service, DAZN (pronounced “da zone”), operates in several countries around the world and will hit U.S. shores on September 10. The leading edge of its $10-a-month service initially will be boxing and MMA, with more than 70 matches courtesy of partnerships with Matchroom Boxing U.S.A., Bellator MMA and the World Boxing Super Series.
“DAZN is Perform Group’s most ambitious undertaking to date and we have big plans as a global streaming leader,” said Skipper, who joined DAZN parent the Perform Group in May as executive chairman. Clad in a crisp navy suit and delivering brief remarks read off index cards, he declared that changes in the sports media landscape are “disruptions that will be good for sports fans.”
Skipper’s new chapter comes just months after ESPN launched its long-awaited direct-to-consumer service, ESPN+, and now DAZN will have a chance to draw some eyeballs away from his former colleagues in Bristol. “In the last two years we’ve expanded into seven countries across three continents, attracting millions of subscribers and creating long-term global partnerships with the best in the industry to bring our fans what they want at an affordable price,” Skipper said.
Beyond Disney, many companies are avidly pursuing sports streaming rights as key elements of their programming and customer acquisition strategy. Turner just launched BR Live, a video extension of its Bleacher Report digital brand. CBS Sports just rolled out an ad-supported sports OTT service. Amazon has locked up streaming NFL rights and Facebook and YouTube have both let their presence be felt in the sports streaming arena.
James Rushton, CEO of DAZN, said the service was out to “disrupt the status quo and change the way the world sees sports.” Upon launch two years ago in Europe and Asia, DAZN has formed relationships with rights holders including the NFL, NBA, Major League Baseball, NHL and others. Its game plan is to roll out other sports after starting with ring sports. It is currently available in Germany, Austria, Switzerland, Japan, Canada and Italy.
Billing itself as the world’s largest dedicated live and on-demand sports streaming service, DAZN has rolled out internationally on the strength of some significant dealmaking. Perform Group entered into a $1 billion joint venture with promoter Matchroom and set a nine-figure distribution deal last month with Viacom-owned Bellator.
Another emblem of the company’s ambitions is its hiring of announcer Michael Buffer, who will bring his trademarked “let’s get ready to rumble” call to fight nights on DAZN.
Here is full video of the launch event, via DAZN’s official Twitter account:
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