What Ex-ESPN Chief John Skipper Told Bill Simmons About the Future of His New Streaming Service DAZN
John Skipper, the former ESPN President who now oversees the sports streaming upstart, DAZN joined The Ringer’s Bill Simmons on The Bill Simmons Podcast to discuss what lies ahead for the streaming service. “We think we will have a robust and profitable direct-to-consumer business in a pretty quick time frame in the United States,” said Skipper.
The company thus far has had more success gaining content rights internationally than in the U.S. Skipper confirmed, “Our biggest markets are Japan, Germany, and Italy. We’ve launched in Spain, we’ll launch in Brazil in the next month. We are first mover and capture around the globe.” Outside then U.S., they’ve been able to be a disrupter including in Japan where Skipper said, “we have Japanese Baseball, Major League Baseball. We have more baseball than anybody in a country where baseball is one of the two most important sports.”
Just today, DAZN announced that they had acquired the rights to English Premier League in Canada. In the Canadian market, DAZN has rights to NFL Sunday Ticket, NFL RedZone, UEFA Champions League, Serie A, and LaLiga which is available to subscribers at just $20 a month.
In the U.S. though, the focus has been on Boxing and MMA, where they’ve signed a $1B five-year deal with Golden Boy Boxing to secure Canelo Alvarez’ next 11 fights. “We made a pragmatic and opportunistic decision that boxing is the one sport that isn’t managed overwhelming by NBC, ESPN, CBS because it disappeared into a PPV world.”
“PPV removed boxing from the mainstream and suppressed the audience to some hundreds of thousands of people who are willing to pay $80…we’re going to try to restore it so they appear in front a big audience for an affordable subscription price. It’s a very loyal audience, who cares a lot about it, I do think it can be a broader audience.” Skipper said, of boxing fans.
The company also offers 80+ fights a year from Matchroom USA, Bellator, Golden Boy Promotions, World Boxing Super Series, and Combate Americas. “We now have the most important Hispanic fighter. We have the most important Western European fighter. We have the most important Eastern European fighter.”
When asked what’s next, Skipper seems to be doubling down on boxing in the short-term. “Would I like to have the most important U.S. fighter? I would. I don’t mean that to send a signal to anybody. But we’d love to have Deontay Wilder fight Anthony Joshua. But I’m not trying to intrude on their business. Right now business models are in the way of that happening.”
But Skipper recognizes that DAZN needs other content and “be a multi-sports aggregator.” The first step in that was the launch of ChangeUp, a nightly live MLB whip-around show hosted by Adnan Virk and HQ Trivia’s Scott Rogowsky.
Last week, DAZN doubled their monthly subscription from $9.99 to $19.99 a month, while introducing a $99 annual plan. Skipper shared that in the U.S., the company will need to consider adding tiers to the service and a “one-size fits all” might not be the right approach. The price change seems to fit the current content where someone may get 6-8 PPV quality fights, but it doesn’t seem to be a good fit with their new MLB price offering.