During early June of 2021, BT made a cryptic announcement regarding the future of their flourishing sports division, BT Sport – widely regarded as the only true UK-based competitor to the behemoth that is Sky Sports. This announcement was around BT seeking “alternative investment” for BT Sport. As it turns out, BT weren’t seeking “alternative investment” after all… they were seeking a takeover. As of this point, BT Sport was officially on the market. As of this point, the face of UK sports broadcasting stood on the edge of a monumental industry shift. As of this point, DAZN began to get their ducks in a row, in order to present themselves as a potential suitor.
After waiting patiently on the edge of mainstream sport for so many years, DAZN may have found the deal to bring the streaming fight to traditional sports broadcasting.
New Kids on The Block
Before we dive into this rumoured, revolutionary deal, let’s learn a little more about the new kid on the block. The world-renowned ‘Netflix of sport’. The “most democratic foray into sports broadcasting since… ever”. DAZN. Owned by Len Blavatnik’s Access Industries, DAZN launched in 2015 and almost instantly developed a niche but passionate fanbase due to a number of key strategic partnerships with UFC, World Boxing Super Series and Eddie Hearn’s Matchroom Boxing, the latter deal developing into one of the most seismic Boxing management shifts in the history of sport, with Anthony Joshua leaving Showtime for DAZN in an estimated $1bn deal.
Whilst DAZN has experienced a level of growth most unicorn start-ups would envy, mainstream audiences have always seemed to elude them. Despite partnerships with Formula 1, eSports, World Snooker and more, DAZN has struggled to escape the box of combat sports it has built for itself. Having committed to strategic, shared streaming partnerships with a number of European football leagues (Bundesliga, Women’s Champions League, etc), DAZN has had to split profits with the likes of ESPN and Eurosport. Not one for crumbs, the opportunity to acquire BT Sport presents DAZN with the opportunity to own the entire pie and provide a true, mainstream, Over-The-Top streaming competitor to Sky Sports.
With whisperings of BT Sport’s sale being heard as early as January, DAZN searched for someone who could drive them into the new frontier of sport, for which they had been so perfectly set up. Everything was in place, they just needed someone to light the fuse. Enter, Kevin A. Mayer.
Kevin A. Mayer, previously Chairman of Direct-to-Consumer and International at The Walt Disney Company and, albeit briefly, CEO of TikTok. Kevin knows the streaming market, lives and breathes high-value acquisitions (having played a key role in Disney’s acquisition of Pixar, Marvel and LucasFilm, their highest value IPs), and has the global experience to make DAZN known as the last word in sports broadcasting on a global scale. Kevin made his intentions clear from the very beginning, moving DAZN into the mainstream by fighting for mainstream sports rights, especially calling out football and the Premier League a number of times.
With bidding processes and rights deals lasting a couple of years, DAZN’s next chance to get themselves involved would be 2022… alternatively, if the opportunity presented itself, you could always buy out a competitor entirely. If only a major sports broadcaster, with a huge bank of mainstream sports rights, including the Champions League, Europa League, Premier League and FA Cup was to make itself available to purchase…
To The Moon
With Kevin Mayer and DAZN subtly yet effectively fuelling the fire, the rumour mill has all but become convinced DAZN will be acquiring BT Sport. I for one, hope this rumour comes through.
With elite sport’s broadcasting rights increasingly being shared amongst Sky Sports, Facebook, BT Sport, Amazon, Eurosport, ESPN and more, the costs for the consumer are constantly building. We are getting to a point where one must pay almost £50 a month just to get access to cup and league football, and if you’d like to add cricket, Formula One, Golf or any other sports, you might need to consider remortgaging your home just to meet the monthly subscription fee.
We’re reaching a point where potential future athletes won’t be inspired by Messi’s 700th career goal, Lewis Hamilton’s all-time record equaling 7th World Championship or Giannis Antetokounmpo’s hugely cathartic NBA Championship win after 8 valiant but winless years with the Milwaukee Bucks, all due to a lack of access brought about by costs. These costs aren’t just hurting wallets, it’s hurting the future sporting potential of our nations.
DAZN taking over BT Sport offers a cliche, but never-more-appropriate light at the end of the tunnel. Its incredible partnership team has kept overheads low, meaning access to a whole host of sports the world over has been kept to a minimum. Very much in line with their desire to “make a real difference” for their customers, DAZN’s potential acquisition of BT Sport brings with it mass-market, low-cost access to elite level football, MotoGP, Rugby and more elite level sport, unseen since the early noughties.
The takeover of BT Sport by DAZN could have incredible ramifications for the future of sports broadcasting and sport in general, proving to be a competitor to the never-budging Sky Sports. After an incredible summer transfer window where rumoured moves paled in comparison to what actually took place, BT Sport to DAZN is one more transfer we’re hoping follows through.
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