DAZN in talks to raise up to $125m from Goal.com sale

DAZN Group, the global sports subscription service and media company, is in “final stage” negotiations to sell its Goal.com football website to US-based private equity firm TPG Capital, it has emerged.

Executives “with knowledge of the discussions” told The New York Times that TPG is in talks to secure the business for as much as $125m (€111.5m).

The talks are said to have commenced late last year as part of DAZN’s plans to focus on its OTT streaming business.

The need for funding has become more acute in recent months with DAZN’s OTT operation hit hard by the Covid-19 shutdown. It was recently reported that billionaire owner Len Blavatnik is looking for investors in DAZN and could even consider an outright sale.

News of the TPG talks coincides with Blavatnik this week raising $1.9bn by offloading shares in Warner Music in the biggest initial public offering of 2020.

TPG is in talks to acquire Goal.com through one of its affiliates, the executives familiar with the discussions said. Should a sale be completed then DAZN is said to have committed to continue working with the website, which launched in 2004 and is available in 19 languages.

Perform Group acquired Goal in 2011 for £18m (€20.1m/$22.5m).

In September 2018, Perform Group divided its assets to create two separate divisions.

Goal.com and the SportingNews and Spox.com websites were housed under DAZN Group, which also includes the OTT streaming business and the global rights partnerships operations. The data and betting sides of the business became part of the Perform Content operation, which then merged with US-based sports, data and technology company Stats as part of an investment by Vista Equity Partners, the US private equity and venture capital firm.

Before the Covid-19 pandemic struck, DAZN hired Goldman Sachs with a view to raising as much as $500m in investments.

Among leading sports broadcasters worldwide, DAZN has been badly affected by the shutdown of sport. It has been particularly susceptible to the financial implications of the coronavirus crisis given its sports-only model and absence of long-term subscriber contracts or quad-play model.

At the end of March, it began to inform sports rights-holders that it would not make its next rights fee payments for any content that has yet to be delivered. An unspecified number of the company’s 2,600 staff were also furloughed.

The measures were put in place as DAZN looks to survive the crisis and revive the business later in the year.

DAZN currently operates in nine countries – Austria, Brazil, Canada, Germany, Italy, Japan, Spain Switzerland, and the US – and had planned to roll out a global service in May (including a long-awaited launch in Southeast Asia). That launch remains on hold.

It holds rights to premium properties in many of those markets, including domestic Bundesliga rights in Germany, Serie A rights in Italy, and J.League rights in Japan. In the past year, it has been moving quickly into boxing, and has agreed high-profile deals with promoters including Golden Boy Promotions, Matchroom Boxing USA and GGG Promotions. These properties were to be the centrepieces of its global offering outside the markets where it is already established.

DAZN Group currently has employees in over 25 countries but a large proportion are based in the UK, either at the London headquarters, the Leeds broadcast facility or a playout facility in Bangor, Northern Ireland. Many departments at the company have seen their workloads dwindle amidst the sports shutdown.