Matchroom Boxing plans to shake-up the boxing world with this brand new content deal with streaming service DAZN.
British boxing promoter Eddie Hearn, whose Matchroom Boxing stable features none other than heavyweight superstar Anthony Joshua, made a major announcement on Thursday that he’d described as “the biggest deal in boxing history.”
That “biggest deal” is a broadcasting agreement with on-demand streaming service DAZN (pronounced Da Zone — I’m not making that up), worth approximately $125 million per year for eight years, good for a total of $1 billion. This comes right on the heels of the UFC’s own announcement of a $150 million/year deal with ESPN+, the recently launched streaming service that will cost subscribers $4.99 per month or $49.99 for a year. Combat sports fans may not exactly be pleased that another streaming service has surfaced.
DAZN has yet to launch in the US, so the monthly subscription fee is not yet known, but it will be no-contract just like with UFC Fight Pass or WWE Network. Dubbed the “Netflix of sports,” DAZN is already available in Canada, Germany, Austria, and Japan. Former ESPN president John Skipper was just named executive chairman of Perform Group, the British sports media company that owns DAZN.
Whereas the UFC still has a television package up for grabs, Matchroom Boxing is dealing only with DAZN. Here’s a rundown of the key details:
- 16 fight cards — described as “12 big fight nights a year and four monsters. Those monsters should be a standard pay-per-view night” by Hearn — based in the United States. The first US event will be this September, likely in New York City. That averages out to $7.7 million per event just in rights fees, which goes a long way towards higher fight purses for boxers.
- An additional 16 cards from the United Kingdom, which Hearn already has budgeted through Sky Sports, will also be streamed live on DAZN.
- All US-based cards will also be available on Sky Sports in the UK at no additional cost.
- No pay-per-view events on DAZN.
Hearn also explained to media outlets that working with a new network provides more freedom to cater programming to suit the needs of the paying customers.
“The key to this deal was to work with a platform that was forward-thinking for the fans, and that was important to us, (because) we’re fans,” said Hearn (via Sporting News). “And with this we have a blank canvas. We’re not going in with an existing boxing broadcaster that is set in their ways.
”You know, ‘don’t like music in the venue, can’t do this on the ring-walk’; if we want to come on-air at 10 p.m. and show two fights, this is going to be built by the fans, for the fans.”
Unlike Premier Boxing Champions, which saw Al Haymon get heavy financial backing from investors for time-buy arrangements in hopes of landing a major television deal, this is an actual rights deal that’s already signed. It proved to be a failure, and now the cable television cards are limited to smaller shows on FOX, FS1, and Bounce, with the top fights and fighters shifted to Showtime.
“I could have done this with less money – probably half the money – but to make it as powerful as we can, this figure enables us to do it,” Hearn said (via The Independent). “This will end up eradicating, in my opinion, the pay-per-view model here in America. It’s so expensive, it’s ridiculous – $99 for a pay-per-view.”
It’s important to note that PBC features a lot of fighters who are currently not signed to any promoter, rather they’re “advised” by Al Haymon. Before DAZN launches in June, with other sports rights soon to be announced, Hearn wants to sign up a full roster of US boxers.
“This is open season for fighters in the U.S.,” Hearn said (via ESPN). “If you’re out there, if you don’t have a promotional contract, if you’re a world-class fighter, we want you. If you’re a world champion no more fighting once a year. No more waiting on your date. We’ve got the dates, the money and the platform to give you regular championship contests.”
Literally all of the names Hearn targeted when pressed for specifics are currently part of Premier Boxing Champions.
Asked to name the top five fighters he wants to sign in America, Eddie Hearn said:
‘Deontay Wilder, Mikey Garcia, Errol Spence, the Charlo Brothers, Adrien Broner. Oh, that’s six.’
— Declan Taylor (@DeclanTaylor87) May 10, 2018
If the name Mikey Garcia rings a bell, that’s because he’s also sought after by Dana White and Zuffa Boxing. We could very well see an arms race between Zuffa Boxing and Matchroom Boxing to sign these promotional free agents (except Wilder, who is with Lou DiBella).
You may be wondering how this affects a potential showdown between Anthony Joshua and Wilder, seeing as Joshua’s Showtime contract is expired. For now, the only update on that is negotiations are still ongoing for that bout, which would likely be on US PPV. He also indicated that it’s possible for fighters from other promoters to be on his Matchroom Boxing cards, citing the massive rights fees he now has.
The UK boxing market is presently in fantastic shape, with Matchroom being the dominant force on the scene, but it’s a different environment in the United States. More details will emerge in due time. From what we currently know, this is either going to be a meaningful shift in the American boxing landscape, or it’s going to blow up spectacularly for a multitude of reasons. It’s definitely worth keeping an eye on, though.