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Media Review: DAZN and the pay-per-view option

DAZN
Michelle Farsi/Matchroom
Game. Unchanged. Pay-per-view set for launch on subscription channel DAZN, writes George Gigney

IT turns out pay-per-view isn’t dead, after all. When DAZN first made its dedicated move into boxing with the signing of Canelo Alvarez, there was a heavy marketing campaign centered around their slogan; “Game. Changed.”

This was referencing the fact that DAZN was purely a subscription service and would not feature PPV fights. They even released a promotional video of Canelo ‘knocking out’ PPV in a boxing ring.

However, it appears PPV had a rematch clause and is now cashing it in. In separate interviews with Boxing Social and IFL, promoter Eddie Hearn – who now works exclusively with DAZN – made it clear that the streaming service is very likely to have PPV fights in the near future.

“They [DAZN] need to have a pay-per-view functionality for unique circumstances, that’s the keyword. When you look at it now, Oleksandr Usyk vs Anthony Joshua. That is not gonna go as part of your DAZN subscription, being quite frank with you,” he said.

“So you need pay-per-view functionality to be able to do that. They have pay-per-view functionality within their platform. [Dillian] Whyte-[Otto] Wallin, [Dereck] Chisora-[Joseph] Parker. These fights you used to see on Sky pay-per-view are 100% not part of that vision.”

This came off the back of a customer survey going out to some DAZN subscribers, which explicitly mentioned a PPV model on the service.

It’s disappointing to hear, but is it surprising? DAZN were always putting themselves in a precarious position with their ‘PPV is dead’ marketing campaigns, especially in a market as volatile as boxing.

DAZN entered that landscape with staggeringly deep pockets, but even their war chest apparently isn’t enough to, well, change the game. And if they want to stay in the game, let alone change it, offering big stars like Joshua and Canelo enhanced earnings from PPV is a necessity.

This isn’t necessarily DAZN’s fault but the mixed messaging is at the root of fan’s unrest, it seems. It’s unfortunate for them that this news comes so soon after their recent monthly price hike in the UK (rising from £1.99 to £7.99), and they’re likely going to need to do some expectation management with certain portions of their audience. It is only fair to point out, however, that BN were warned about both the rise in subscription costs and the addition of PPV when we spoke to Hearn and DAZN’s Joe Markowski earlier this year.  

Lightweight stars Teofimo Lopez and Devin Haney were in Fresno to take in the Sandor Martin-Mikey Garcia show, and got into a confrontation at ringside with numerous outlets capturing it on camera.

Not much of value was said and the pair mainly just swore at each other. The likes of Matchroom and DAZN used it as promotion for a potential fight between the two but it was more frustrating than anything.

Once it looks realistic that these guys are going to actually face each other, such skirmishes might hold a little more interest – though only a little.

Broadcasts

Sky Sports haven’t had the best of luck since launching their new broadcast partnership with BOXXER. Chris Eubank Jnr was set to headline a show in Wembley a couple of weeks ago, only for the fight to be scrapped at the last minute due to medical concerns over his late-replacement opponent.

Their show in Newcastle this past weekend was hit when local star Lewis Ritson followed an announcement that he had signed with Probellum with the unfortunate news that an illness meant he could not appear.  

What didn’t help was that the remaining fights on the main card were not particularly competitive. In fact, the most well-matched bout on the bill – Brad Rea against Jez Smith – was not on the Sky broadcast, but featured on YouTube earlier in the night.

That isn’t necessarily a bad thing considering how exciting the fight ended up being, as it was and still is available to a much wider audience.

Unfortunately, the Sky broadcast was plagued by advert breaks – the Voltarol brand is now burned into my brain – and this problem seemed to be worse than usual.

Savannah Marshall was clearly the standout on the Sky broadcast, turning in a brutal performance. Her trainer, Peter Fury, deservedly received plenty of credit too, particularly after an impressive display from his son Hughie, who he also trains, earlier on the show.

Sky also had Claressa Shields on hand (virtually) to provide reaction to Marshall’s win and make the surprise announcement that she will join Savannah on a UK show in December, setting up a huge fight between them next year.

It’s textbook promoting and an exciting development.

Podcasts

The Fight Disciples have built a dedicated audience for themselves and continue to branch into new avenues, but their podcast remains a great listen. They were out in Las Vegas for Fury-Wilder 3 and this week’s episode was something of a debrief and analysis of not only the fight but their experience of fight week.

Despite having allegiances with the likes of DAZN and BT Sport, both men are refreshingly blunt in their breakdowns of how things should go from here on out, and it’s hard to argue with their assessment that Fury fighting Whyte or Wallin next is a comedown from his epic trilogy with Wilder.

This certainly isn’t the first time Tris Dixon’s Boxing Life Stories has been praised in this column and it likely won’t be the last, but the latest episode with Peter Buckley is a real treat.

Journeymen often have some of the most fascinating stories in boxing and Buckley – now retired – was one of the most prolific in British history with over 300 fights, packing this podcast episode with terrific anecdotes and details.

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