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Rights buyer DAZN: Transparency is key in EHF sales process

DAZN Group has reiterated its intention to ensure transparency in its joint 10-year European Handball Federation rights agreement with the Infront agency given the digital sports media company is also a potential buyer of the broadcast rights in different markets.

Speaking at the Spobis conference in Düsseldorf, DAZN Group chief business development officer John Gleasure was keen to address any perception that DAZN could face a certain conflict of interests.

DAZN has already committed to clear lines of action in sales processes for its other rights-holder projects, including the Fiba national team matches and the WTA Tour.

Gleasure said: “We are a buyer but there has to be a transparency. In Germany or any market that we’re in there has to be that clear transparency. This is something that we’ve always built into every partnership we’ve done.”

Citing one of “multiple examples”, he referenced the “fair and open” sale of Fiba World Cup rights in Germany – a DAZN market – to telco Deutsche Telekom.

The European Handball Federation’s wide-ranging 10-year media and sponsorship rights agreement with DAZN Group and Infront will kick in with the 2020-21 editions of the EHF club competitions. The agreement, which also includes the men’s and women’s EHF Euros (from 2022 to 2030) is worth €500m ($567m) in rights fees alone, with an additional spend on production and services.

Due to the revenue-share element that DAZN Group and Infront would enjoy over and above the minimum guarantee, both parties are incentivised to derive the largest fee from any particular market (as opposed to awarding the rights automatically to DAZN).

Gleasure, who stressed the need to have “Chinese walls”, continued: “Each of us has clear roles and responsibilities and it’s important to retain that transparency as a broadcaster as well as a broadcast partner.”

However, he added: “Equally, having us a partner and if there are problem markets then obviously that helps with us having the ability [to stream matches].

“We’ll always have that division and clear demarcation and we have to give the market the understanding that there will always be that transparency.”

Having launched initially in Germany, Austria and Switzerland in August 2016, DAZN is now also active in Brazil, Canada, Italy, Japan, Spain and USA.

Distinct from the consumer-facing subscription streaming operation, the global rights partnerships side of the business, which is headed up by former beIN Media Group and Perform executive Stewart Walker, continues to be built up. Along with the EHF project, Fiba Media and WTA Media, the partnerships also include FC Diez Media (the joint-venture Conmebol project with IMG), Matchroom Boxing USA and Matchroom Boxing Italy.

In order to ensure a fair process, Infront is expected to take the lead on rights sales in markets in which DAZN operates. However, the DAZN-Infront-EHF triumvirate will be a joint operation, as representatives from all three were keen to stress on stage at Spobis.

Julien Ternisien, Infront’s senior vice-president of summer sports, said: “This partnership is one full dedicated team. For sure they [DAZN] will give us some advice and recommendations on different aspects but it’s one full dedicated team taking the decision all together with the EHF.

“We have created these working groups, we share everything and we take the decisions all together.”

Michael Wiederer, the EHF president, dismissed the notion that the confederation would lose any control through the long-term award of rights to DAZN and Infront.

He said: “We’re creating platforms to discuss the issues and it is one of our responsibilities to make sure that we keep control of our sport and we’re not going to sell the competitions to external partners.”

Wiederer said that the EHF intends to go back to market with the rights in 2027 and is understood to have set the lofty ambition of generating €1 billion from the next cycle.