DAZN Streaming Service Seeks Exit From UEFA Asia Rights Deal
DAZN, the sports streaming company owned by billionaire Len Blavatnik, is seeking an early exit from its contract to broadcast UEFA Champions League soccer in Asia, citing the Covid-19 pandemic and big changes to the schedule, according to people familiar with the situation.
In the past few days, the company has told UEFA and its marketing affiliate TEAM that it wants to terminate the money-losing contract before its expiration in mid-2021, saying Covid-19 has shrunk and rearranged matches, which are now being played in Portugal without fans, said the people, who asked not to be identified because the discussions are private.
UEFA is gearing up for the final stages of this season’s Champions League and Europa League in August, after being forced to suspend games during the lockdown period and beyond in Europe. Both UEFA and the streaming service declined to comment.
DAZN, pronounced “da zone,” has held the rights to Europe’s top soccer competition for the past two seasons in a large part of Southeast Asia, including Thailand, without a service to broadcast on. It has been distributed via Facebook, YouTube and Goal.com.
“We know DAZN has been feeling the pressure on its business from the impact of Covid-19 on sporting events,” said Richard Broughton of Ampere Analysis. “It would be prudent in the circumstances for any company in its position to look for surplus expenditure to trim, with a view to focusing on the core areas of the business — rather than doubling down in peripheral markets.”
DAZN, which also has rights to UEFA’s top soccer in Germany, Austria, Switzerland and Canada, hopes to provide some sort of continuity for the rest of this season. It has offered to broadcast matches on current services, but is seeking to pay less. The streaming service recently pulled out of broadcasting Serie A, the Italian soccer league, in Brazil, and it’s also in discussions to sell a stake in Goal.com, one of the people said.
James Rushton recently took over as acting chief executive officer of DAZN. He and Chairman John Skipper are evaluating which markets they want to build on and which to cut back, according to the people. The company recently increased its foothold in Germany by gaining more matches in the Bundesliga, the most-watched sport in that country.
Broughton says the annual rights costs for the company total around $1.5 billion.