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With a new executive structure and brand consolidation having taken place at parent organisation Perform Group this autumn, DAZN is now set for the next phase of its growth.
Speaking backstage at the Leaders Sport Business Summit in May, James Rushton, CEO of DAZN from its conception in 2015 until this September, when he took on new responsibilities as Chief Revenue Officer of the expanded DAZN Group, gave his view on DAZN’s role as an instigator of and beneficiary from a disruptive media environment, reflected on the broadcaster’s launch in the US market, which started with a billion-dollar tie-up with the Matchroom US boxing promotion, explained how data underpins every business decision DAZN makes, and outlined his collaborative approach to working with ‘the FANGs’.
What’s your take on the disruptive media environment we find ourselves in?
I think the word ‘disruptive’ is a really interesting one; it’s not as if anyone at the Perform Group or DAZN got up one morning and though – ‘aha, let’s go and be disruptive’. There are always some core fundamentals as to what your business is about, and for our business the core is about fair value, it’s about fans first, and it just so happens that the traditional linear broadcasters maybe haven’t been that historically in the last few years. Cable packages across the world are generally quite expensive; cable packages for sport generally only include two or three channels. And in this day and age when consumer choice is king and the way that content is disseminated now means that people can choose what they want and not have it forced down their throat, by nature there is an element of disruption. So we embrace that and it’s something we’re glad to be part of that conversation, but it’s not something we’ve set out to do. We’ve set out to create a great business, drive subscribers and stand by our consumer proposition – and as it happens that is disruptive to some of the more traditional linear broadcasters.
DAZN is a streaming product so you get data from every single one of your users. How does that data feed into how you make decisions?
It’s massive; it’s one of the biggest USPs we have as a business. We know instantly how a piece of content is performing, what we need to do to improve that content’s performance on the platform, additional rights we should be buying. I was at the launch of the Matchroom US partnership last week [in May, 2018]; we had a hunch that the DAZN platform and proposition could be interesting to a traditional pay-per-view sport. We thought if we could bring people in and give them enough quality shows then we could remove the need to put that content behind a pay-per-view wall and put it into a value for money subscription. But obviously we didn’t have any datapoints to prove that. We had Mayweather vs McGregor in Germany where we the exclusive broadcaster. That data, decay rates and engagement rates and second and third engagement rates – a consumer that came in and subscribed while they’re now watching – those were the proof points of our hunch around DAZN being able to come in and take on pay-per-view sports. Without that Mayweather vs McGregor proof point, I don’t think we’d have been as willing to go as deep into boxing with Matchroom US.
What’s the DAZN approach to working in the same field as Facebook, Amazon, Google etc?
We work with Facebook, Amazon and YouTube already. Our view right now is that the FANGs are very much complementary to what we do. If you speak to their senior leaders, they’re not necessarily trying to create a multi-sport broadcast platform globally. What they’re trying to do is take on certain rights in certain markets to meet a business goal, Facebook maybe to try to grow its video advertising business in the market and effectively take on traditional free-to-air television. In the case of Amazon it might be, in a similar way to how they got the guys from Top Gear to come over and do the Grand Tour, they see sports rights as a direct driver of sales of their hardware. For sure we have to keep a close eye on them, but for me it’s better to be working with those guys like we do now in partnership, retailing DAZN through their platforms, but also working with them together on potential acquisition, rather than viewing them as a threat. As James Pitaro from ESPN said this morning at Leaders, the market has always been competitive, and as a broadcaster I don’t think you can worry about competitors. Alright, a competitive market – that’s a sign of health for the business, whether that be ESPN+ here in the US or Facebook in the other markets, it shows that by what we’re doing as a disruptive, digital, OTT broadcaster, we’re in the right place. And ultimately, it’s then down to delivery and making sure we stick to our promises. If we do that, independent of what anyone else is doing, I’m pretty sure we’ll have a successful business.