When DAZN came into the U.S. boxing market in 2018, the promise from key players like Matchroom Boxing’s Eddie Hearn was that pay-per-view was dead and would be replaced by over the top streaming for a monthly fee.
Things haven’t quite worked out. Starting last year, when Matchroom moved their U.K. broadcasts to DAZN from Sky Sports, Hearn’s tune began to change, acknowledging that pay-per-view would be a necessity for certain fights, things like Anthony Joshua bouts. The first DAZN pay-per-view will come on May 7, when Canelo Alvarez faces Dmitry Bivol.
Given the actual standard of pay-per-view boxing — which is not “just the best fights” and hasn’t been for a couple decades or, really, ever — Canelo vs Bivol is not a bad pay-per-view main event.
But rival promoter Frank Warren has taken the chance to call out Hearn, saying Hearn will say “whatever is necessary at the moment,” and stating his belief that Hearn has simply not delivered what was promised with DAZN in either the United States or United Kingdom.
“They’ve got to go to pay-per-view, otherwise the model doesn’t work. What’s happened with DAZN is that Hearn’s not delivered,” Warren said. “They spent all that money in America, they’ve lost money hand over fist, and he’s not built a star. They’ve got hardly any subscribers (in the UK). They keep saying what they’ve got around the world — what they’ve got here, I understand, is not a lot, which is a great shame, because at the end of the day, I know a lot of people who work there, good friends of mine, people I’ve known over the years. I want it to be a success for them.
“But he hasn’t delivered. That’s the bottom line of it. All that nonsense, ‘Pay-per-view is dead’ — they need it. We all know pay-per-view is what pays these big purses for boxers. That’s what happens, and he needs it.”
Now, this is obviously gamesmanship between rival promoters, and Warren has a particular new beef with Hearn because he believes Eddie told Dillian Whyte not to attend the recent Fury vs Whyte presser. And while you shouldn’t really “side with” any promoter because they’re all pretty much the same at the end of the day, there is some hard truth in here, I think.
DAZN has, pretty much without question, not become what those involved hoped it would become. It has not caught on like anyone wanted in the U.S., which will happen when your one major property is a niche sport and you’re otherwise stuck trying to maybe get Americans to care about darts, which you should give a shot sometime if you’re already subscribed, by the way, those crowds are insane and the sport is intense as hell.
PPV for DAZN became an inevitability last year. Hearn acknowledged that, speaking then just for the U.K. audience, but it was not hard to see that if they wanted to have Canelo Alvarez on their airwaves, PPV was going to have to be part of the deal for him, too. He worked with Premier Boxing Champions last year to do the FOX PPV with Caleb Plant, his first fight off DAZN since 2018. He got a taste and knows what he can make elsewhere, and PBC had a significant offer in for his services this year, too. He chose DAZN and Matchroom; he says because he likes Hearn, and I’m sure he does, but PPV money has to be a big part of that.
DAZN aren’t in any danger of going away, I don’t believe. It’s a rich company that makes money around the world. But obviously they couldn’t just keep doing what they’ve been doing with boxing in the U.S. and U.K. It wasn’t going to be sustainable a whole lot longer. As fans and consumers, we can only hope now that DAZN doesn’t teeter into putting every halfway marketable name on pay-per-view the way PBC have done, but you should probably accept the real chance that could happen by the end of 2022 or into 2023, too.