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DAZN reshuffles executive team, eyes non-live content to protect subscriber base

DAZN logo on display at company's offices in Tokyo on Wednesday, Aug. 2, 2017 (Photographer: Tomohiro Ohsumi/Bloomberg via Getty Images)

DAZN Group, the global sports subscription service and media company, has undertaken a reshuffle of its executive team and will look to develop more non-live content as it continues to respond to the sizeable impact to the business caused by the Covid-19 pandemic.

Details of the changes were laid out to the staff this afternoon by James Rushton, DAZN’s group acting chief executive, with Ed McCarthy, who recently joined DAZN from owner Access Industries, the multinational industrial group, becoming chief operating officer.

John Gleasure, chief business development officer at DAZN, has been appointed to the new role of executive vice-chairman. DAZN said today (Thursday) that he will work alongside Rushton and John Skipper, DAZN group executive chairman, on the “near-term transformation agenda and long-term company strategy, as well as key priorities including global partnerships and diversity and inclusion”.

In other changes, DAZN’s Veronica Diquattro, executive vice-president of Southern Europe, switches to the newly-created position of chief customer and innovation officer and will also continue to oversee operations in Italy and Spain.

Another new position has been created in the form of a chief subscription officer and will be filled by Ben King, currently senior vice-president, global distribution and business development. King, who joined DAZN at the start of last year after 12 years at consumer technology giant Apple, will be responsible for the development of the direct-to-consumer subscription business, leading marketing and overseeing agreements with app stores, manufacturers, telcos and retail firms.

Meanwhile, Paul Morton has been promoted to the chief revenue officer position vacated by Rushton and Neil Colligan, the long-serving chief operating officer at DAZN (and previously Perform) remains with the company – and on the executive committee – in the role of chief development and delivery officer.

The raft of changes is designed to “provide greater focus on the customer experience, efficient international expansion and non-live content”, according to DAZN.

The appointment of McCarthy to COO is indicative of Access Industries’ increasing influence in the direction of the company, and comes after chief executive Simon Denyer recently left his position, as exclusively reported by SportBusiness. McCarthy, Access Industries’ corporate director and portfolio manager, recently joined DAZN and took up a position on the executive committee.

As COO, McCarthy will be responsible for leading DAZN’s live and non-live content strategy, as well as the broadcaster’s new market strategy. He will also take operational responsibility for all new ventures and “associated corporate strategy”.

Non-live content drive

The push into more non-live content announced today by DAZN comes after the OTT operator was left exposed during the Covid-19 shutdown, with the paucity of live sports coverage prompting customers to terminate their subscriptions, while OTT operators such as Amazon Prime and Netflix were buoyed by interest in their non-live sports offerings.

DAZN, which will soon launch its boxing-led global OTT platform, will now be looking to non-live programming, including documentaries, to reduce the churn rate and also attract new subscribers.

Rushton said: “In particular, the development of non-live content will play a major role in our expansion plans. As one of the key learnings from the pandemic, the relationship between non-live content engagement and customer retention has never been stronger.

“We have a deep understanding of our customers and we will look to develop a broader and more meaningful value proposition by providing a data-driven, personally curated mix of quality live and non-live content that will attract people to the platform and keep them coming back on a regular basis.”

Rushton said today that DAZN’s paying subscriber base is on track to be “fully recovered to pre-Covid levels” by the fourth quarter of this year. That customer base would also include the new subscribers who sign up to the global platform. DAZN had reached close to 8 million subscribers globally by the end of 2019.

DAZN currently operates its OTT subscription business in Austria, Brazil, Canada, Germany, Italy, Japan, Spain, Switzerland and the US.

Following the coronavirus hit, DAZN has sought to reduce the cost of some of its rights investments. This had led to the ending of a deal in Brazil for the Copa Sudamericana competition and the move to terminate its Uefa Champions League rights in southeast Asia one year early.

Rushton insisted today that DAZN will “continue to invest in our initial core launch markets – as evidenced by the recent announcements regarding the major Uefa Champions League and Bundesliga packages in DACH, whilst increasing our commitment to becoming a global sports destination platform through increased focus on DAZN’s forthcoming global service”.

The broadcaster added that it is “committed” to adding more live sports and sports content to the global service from early next year. A beta version of the global platform continues to be tested before a full launch, which will be centred on a high-profile boxing event, is announced. DAZN had planned to go live with a service in over 200 countries in time for Saúl ‘Canelo’ Álvarez’s super-middleweight fight on May 2.

DAZN first launched in German-speaking countries and Japan in August 2016. A service in Canada followed just under a year later and a boxing-focused US service arrived in September 2018, hot on the heels of the launch of the Italian service on the back of the Serie A rights acquisition.

In May 2018, DAZN (then Perform Group) announced an eight-year $1bn (€844m) deal with the Matchroom Boxing promoter to stream top bouts to fans in the US market. In its deals with promoters Matchroom, Golden Boy and GGG, DAZN secured global streaming rights and has until now sold on rights in markets in which it is not yet active. In March last year, DAZN doubled the price of its US subscription from $9.99 to $19.99 per month.

At the end of March, DAZN began to inform sports rights-holders that it would not make its next rights fee payments for any content that has yet to be delivered. An unspecified number of the company’s 2,600 staff were also furloughed. Rights payments have resumed as live sport has returned.

It also emerged recently that DAZN Group is in “final stage” negotiations to sell its Goal.com football website to US-based private equity firm TPG Capital. Executives “with knowledge of the discussions” told The New York Times that TPG is in talks to secure the business for as much as $125m.