Jamie Munguia vs Takeshi Inoue: Final press conference round-up.Boxing’s return to Toyota Center on Saturday with a card highlighted by Jamie Munguia vs. Takeshi Inoue marks the Houston production debut for DAZN, the international subscription video streaming service that began operations in the U.S. last year.
DAZN, pronounced “da zone,” currently specializes in boxing and mixed martial arts in the United States but later this year will add a weeknight Major League Baseball whip-around show similar to the NFL’s RedZone channels.
The service also is the NFL’s exclusive carrier in Canada and has an extensive list of soccer rights and some U.S. sports rights in Japan, Brazil and the European markets in which it has launched.
In boxing, DAZN’s most significant asset in the U.S. is its relationship with Golden Boy Promotions, particular with the Mexican champion Canelo Alvarez. DAZN also carries Bellator MMA events. Its executive chairman is former ESPN president John Skipper.
Joseph Markowski, the company’s executive vice president for North America, said the Toyota Center card is the first of what he expects will be other DAZN events in Texas in months and years to come.
“We see huge amounts of potential as we grow our business in certain states, including Texas,” Markowski said. “Texas is a fighting state, and we are a fighting product. There’s also a big base of Hispanic sports fans that we can service with high-quality sports content.
“There’s a whole range of benefits that pay TV doesn’t give these fans, and we and Golden Boy look forward to coming to Houston to introduce ourselves to fight fans.”
As technology shifts toward multi-screen viewing, streaming services increasingly figure into the product mix for sports fans; witness ESPN+, which now has more than a million monthly subscribers, and the glitch-marred Tiger Woods-Phil Mickelson match round produced through Turner Sports’ Bleacher Report Live platform.
The growth of streaming services also feeds into clichés, many of them accurate, about younger viewers eschewing big screens to watch sports on phones and other mobile devices. DAZN, however, said that the bulk of its viewership takes place on traditional big screen TVs.
“We don’t disclose specifics, but it is significantly more than 50 percent of our consumption hours,” Markowski said. “I don’t think it’s a generational thing. I think it’s a category.
“Sport is a lean-back experience, and it is best consumed on a big screen. The penetration of big screen devices is a metric we look at when we consider entering a new market. We are in seven so far and launching two more, and that (big screen viewing) is a consistent trend.”
Big screens, of course, require good picture quality, and the Mickelson-Woods technical debacle last November indicated the potential pitfalls for streaming services.
“Friends asked me if that was a good thing for us, and I said absolutely not,” Markowski said. “We are a new industry. It’s hard to deliver a qualify feed faultlessly to an over the top (non-cable or satellite) subscriber. I don’t want the other platforms to have problems. I want the industry as a whole to improve.
“We have what we believe to be the best set of engineering and operational teams in our business. In simple terms, our platform doesn’t fall over very often because it’s well well-maintained and so well-backed up that when something goes wrong, the consumer doesn’t see it.”
While weekly and big-event boxing and MMA are the foundation of DAZN’s U.S. launch, Markowski said any sports broadcaster needs a daily staple. That reflects the importance of the upcoming MLB show, which will be produced at MLB Network’s studios in Secaucus, N.J.
“The MLB opportunity was one we couldn’t turn down,” he said. “We feel strongly that over the duration of the regular season we can provide a new, different way of consuming baseball content.”
Markowski said among the major U.S. sports leagues, MLB provides the most crossover interest among fight sports fans. Some of that, he said, reflects the Hispanic audience, which is why he said the MLB deal made sense for DAZN.
While he did not elaborate, he said DAZN is in conversations with all the major sports leagues in the U.S. and that he expects the company to announce other deals this year and beyond.