The infamous and meme’d Eddie Hearn and his Matchroom Boxing have recently struck a deal with DAZN which sees him end his long-term partnership with Sky Sports – a deal which is reportedly into nine-figures. It comes at a time when boxing’s future looks uncertain.
What the DAZN-Eddie Hearn Deal Means for Boxing Broadcasting
When streaming services like Netflix and Amazon first started to become the global phenomenon they are now, it was widely expected they’d make significant forays into the sports broadcasting market. The key for any brand producing content is variety – whether that’s an online casino provider crafting an extensive catalogue of roulette, poker, and slots which satisfy and interest a wide audience or a fashion influencer creating exclusive content for various social media channels – and this was what was understood to be appealing about sports for streaming services. Amazon are the only one to acquire rights to ‘traditional’ sports like tennis, soccer, basketball, and American football. YouTube and Twitch are the notable streaming services to develop a hold on the ballooning esports market, with cable channels like ESPN in America and the BBC in Britain entering in recent years.
Eddie Hearn already has a deal with DAZN for U.S. broadcasting of his fights, but the U.K. deal represents a significant moment. Sky Sports had been the go-to for many of major fights being broadcasted in the U.K., but their model was pay-per-view. Fans had to pay per fight. Now, Hearn’s fights, aside from those involving Anthony Joshua, will all appear on DAZN at no extra cost to the audience – all included in the base subscription fee. This deal allows for a more global reach, and a much easier way to engage with new and existing audiences, outside of the PPV model.
It leaves a whole in Sky’s broadcasting. BT Sport has a PPV boxing service, so boxing will not be deserting cable TV, but it does represent a shift. What’s left at the table for Sky?
Contemporary boxing is at a strange point. While major fights involving the aforementioned Anthony Joshua, alongside Tyson Fury, Canelo Alvarez, and Deontay Wilder, are routinely making headlines, celebrity boxers like Logan and Jake Paul, as well as events where YouTube and Twitch stars face-off, are beginning to overshadow the more legitimately and historically competitive core of the sport.
Logan Paul’s bout with the transcendent Floyd Mayweather attracted over one million PPV sales. It’s not very often a fight surpassing the one-million mark. The demand affected Showtime technically, meaning portions of the audience struggled to access the spectacle. Cards of this magnitude will continue to be PPV. This is why Anthony Joshua is considered ‘outside’ of the Hearn-DAZN deal. Prized fighters require different business models. However, it’s the ‘novelty’ fights – those the Paul Brothers, KSI, and other internet celebrities are involved in – that are appealing to a new audience, as opposed to the professional ones. The DAZN deal, for Eddie Hearn and Matchroom’s fighters, could see a new wave of interest find its way to the edges of the ring, giving the sport a chance to re-orient its professional core to the front. Will Sky change its approach and pick up ‘smaller’ fights and position itself ready to catch the tailcoats?
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