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DAZN, BT Sport, and The Shifting TV Rights Landscape

Updated: Aug 7, 2022


Reports are coming in that DAZN is interested in buying BT sports that would change the landscape of broadcasting, at least in the UK where Sky Sports and BT have been the two main actors on the scene. As a matter of fact, because of a cross-licensing agreement between Sky and BT has, Sky needs to approve this sale if it would ever become a reality.(1) DAZN started in 2016(2) and has quickly expanded its sports rights portfolio. It's been reported that DAZN in Italy paid €1 billion per year for the rights to Serie A, the top-division flight of Italian soccer in a deal that stretches for 3 years. (3). In July this year, DAZN announced that it will be the global broadcaster of the UEFA women's Champions League for the next 4 years (4). Last year, Sky Sports and DAZN secured the domestic rights to broadcast Bundesliga, the top division in Germany, in a deal worth €4.4 billion per season.

In 2019, DAZN Canada acquired the rights for the English Premier League, the top flight division in England, in a 3-year deal. DAZN already owned the right to the UEFA Champions League and the UEFA Europa League in Canada at that point as well(6). Not only has DAZN acquired some serious sought sports rights, they have also expanded to countries such as; Austria, Germany, Switzerland, Japan, Italy, Brazil, Spain, Canada and the USA(7). It has been reported that DAZN is thinking about going global soon with plans to be available in over 200 countries worldwide(8).

It is quite remarkable how fast DAZN has been able to grow from a small streaming operation to being a very serious and large actor in the sphere of sport broadcasting rights. It is not hard to recognize the similarities between DAZN and Netflix(9) considering how it has changed the media landscape. A consumer is no longer forced to pay for a TV package just to watch a few games per month when they now can easily pay a small monthly fee to DAZN instead.

DAZN is owned by Leonard Blavatnik, the richest person in the UK with a £23 billion fortune who made his money in the oil and metal in Russia. Besides DAZN, the Ukrainian born billionaire also owns Warner Music(10). DAZN currently has around 15 million subscribers worldwide (reportedly, since it is a private company, they are not forced to disclose the exact amount) and it is believed that this number will keep growing in the coming years. While all of this seems impressive, DAZN was forced to borrow $1 billion from Blavatnik because of the Pandemic and it had $1.8 billion in losses in 2019(11). This could just be a strategy from DAZN to get as many attractive sports rights as possible to attract consumers that will later turn the red number black.

The media landscape for sport is not always easy. For example, MediaPro, who owned the domestic rights for Ligue 1 and 2 together with BeIN Sports could not make the payments (they only lasted 4 months until they could not make the payments) needed for the rights because of the pandemic. It was a deal that was worth a staggering €814 million per year(12). A new deal was formed and it is reported that the French League will receive almost 50% than what was expected with the new deal in place(13).

It is impossible to say what will happen in the future when it comes to sports broadcasting rights but it is fair to say that DAZN has been able to change the sports media landscape in the same way Netflix was able to change the landscape for movies and TV shows. Other companies caught on the Netflix wave and now it seems like every media conglomerate has its own streaming service, Disney+, HBO, Hulu, and Peacock just to name a few. It would not be surprising if we will soon another actor come to the scene to compete against DAZN in the world of sports streaming. If the deal between BT Sports and DAZN goes through, it will be the end of a decade long battle between BT and Sky in England and it may lead to more streaming consumers in the UK which might accelerate the competition when it comes to sports streaming

Sources: (1) (2) (3) (4) (5) (6) (7) (8) (9) (10) (11) (12) (13)

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