Game changer

David Murphy talks sports rights and disruption with Peter Parmenter, SVP business development at DAZN .

If you live in the UK, you could be forgiven for thinking that the rights to major sporting events have been locked down by the big players such as Sky and BT, but elsewhere around the world, opportunities still exist for other players to get involved.

It’s on that premise that DAZN (pronounced Dazone), launched three years ago, with the aim of disrupting the sports rights business. It’s part of Perform Group, a sports media business that delivers sports content direct to consumers through its properties such as and through third party sites. Perform was the first company to broadcast an England football match live on the web, for example.

“Just over three years ago, our lead investor, Len Blavatnik, thought it was time that the disruption that the music and movie world had seen was brought to the world of sports rights,” explains Peter Parmenter, DAZN’s SVP, business development. “The idea was to put control of what you want to watch in the consumer’s hands, as opposed to the scheduler at a big broadcaster. It was about the marriage of rights cycles and where the technology was going, with the ability to distribute services over the top, taking a direct to consumer service and making it available on any screen, to get both live and on-demand sport into the hands of as many consumers as possible.”

Three years later, DAZN operates in eight countries: Japan, Germany, Austria, Switzerland, Canada, Italy the US and Spain, where it launched just this week. The service is also currently streaming on social media in Brazil, before launching officially in April. So while it does nothing in the UK, in Germany, DAZN has rights to the German coverage of both the Premier League and Champions League football competitions, among other sports. Users pay €9.99 a month to access the content (€4.99 in Spain, $9.99 in the US) and there’s no contract.

“Our business is built on the marriage of available rights, and the network infrastructure of a country, so when we are looking at where to launch, it’s an assessment of what’s available, which is why we’re not in the UK,” says Parmenter. “But we have a commercial team scouting the world for rights. We also try to give the consumer choices, such as the choice of whether to watch a whole game or just the highlights, for example. To watch it live or download it to watch later on the commute to or from work.”

In terms of devices, DAZN works on any connected device, including smart TVs, TV sticks (Fire, Roku etc), tablets, games consoles, and of course mobile. “Our approach is to hook people on mobile and then move them through mobile to the other screens, because people who watch in a living room stay longer and watch more,” says Parmenter.

The company also has what Parmenter calls a “brutal focus on getting the basics right”. He says: “We want to make sure that when the viewer hits ‘Play’ it plays. The difference between us and video on demand services is that we are live, and the work involved in delivering millions of concurrent streams is pretty intense, so there’s a lot of work on the back end, network optimisation, the stuff no one sees, but which is really important to the experience.”

Though he won’t be drawn on user numbers, Parmenter says the company is happy with where they’re at, and with the Spanish launch this week, and Brazil in April, new markets are opening up.

Given its target audience, social is also a key channel. “We work with all the big social networks, influencers and ambassadors,” says Parmenter. “Ronaldo is signed up, and ahead of the Brazil launch, we have been showing games on YouTube using a big network of influencers. It’s a great way to build the brand.”