DAZN seeks investors amid Covid-19 downturn

Len Blavatnik, the Ukraine-born billionaire who owns DAZN, is looking for investors to help shore up the sports streaming service’s finances during the Covid-19 downturn, according to the Financial Times.

Blavatnik is said to be looking to sell an equity stake, but would also consider an outright sale of the business, various sources “familiar with the talks” told the FT.

The group is reported to have approached major media companies about an investment in recent weeks, but to have received little interest yet. The companies approached are said to include Liberty Global, the media group that is a shareholder in the Formula E electric motor racing series.

Among leading sports broadcasters worldwide, DAZN has been hit hard 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, which includes a long-awaited launch in Southeast Asia. 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.

The FT reported that the company was valued at £3bn ($3.7bn/€3.4bn) two years ago, when the wider Perform Group sold a 10-per-cent stake to Dentsu, the Japanese advertising and marketing group, for £300m. It hired Goldman Sachs last year in an effort to raise $500m that was stalled by the pandemic.

DAZN Group was created as an entity in 2018 as Perform Group rebranded and split into two: the rights-holding OTT business DAZN; and betting rights, data, news and video company Perform Content (since merged with data and technology company Stats).

The company 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.