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Simon Denyer | Chief executive, DAZN Group

Simon Denyer

Simon Denyer was among the 10 executives whose work in 2018 we believe indicates the direction of the sports business in 2019 and beyond.

In 2018, the scale of the DAZN Group’s ambitions for its OTT service DAZN became clear. Launches in Italy and the US in the summer were followed by an announcement towards the end of the year that Spain and Brazil would follow in 2019.

These will build on the earlier launches in Japan, Germany, Austria and Canada, as the company moves towards hitting its target of being in 20 markets by 2020.

The roll-out is driven by Simon Denyer, chief executive of the DAZN Group and one of the founders of Perform Group, the London-based digital media specialists owned by Leonard Blavatnik’s Access Industries.

The characteristics making DAZN attractive to new sports audiences – low-cost, high-quality, no obligation, multi-screen delivery – come from Denyer’s vision of how sports broadcasting will look in the future.

There were some other milestones in 2018. In March, the acquisition by Japanese advertising giant Dentsu of a 10-per-cent stake for £300m (€346m/$392m)valued the company at £3bn, making it the UK’s most valuable tech start-up.

In September, the company split its assets into two separate divisions: Perform Content, the B2B betting and data division; and DAZN Group, which includes DAZN and websites such as Goal.com.

Blavatnik’s gamble on Denyer’s vision is one of the biggest in sport. The investments in rights, technology, front-of-screen talent and marketing are colossal. But if it comes off, the rewards will be huge, with some observers expecting DAZN to be either taken public or sold to one of the major tech or social media players.

Comparisons are made between DAZN and the two streaming services, Netflix in film and Spotify in music. If DAZN ends up with their level of market cap – currently at $144bn and $24bn respectively – Denyer’s legacy in the industry will be secure.

“Simon is a “concrete visionary”: an exceptional entrepreneur who not only anticipates industry trends but also transforms them into concrete business,” said Frank Leenders, director general, Fiba Media & Marketing Services.

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Our other nine trailblazing executives are:

Adam Silver | Commissioner, NBA

Alfredo Bermejo | Digital strategy director, LaLiga

Barney Francis | Managing director, Sky Sports

Darren Eales | President, Atlanta United

David Szlezak | Managing director, EHF Marketing

Joanna Adams | Chief executive, England Netball

Kerry Bubolz | President, Vegas Golden Knights

Laura Froelich | Senior director, head of US content partnerships, Twitter

Sean Jefferson | Director of partnerships, Man United