Eddie Hearn was typically bullish. "This is a historic moment for Matchroom and the sport of boxing," said the promoter when announcing Matchroom Boxing's $1bn deal with streaming platform DAZN. "Our plan is to make DAZN the home of boxing and with 32 big fight nights already confirmed from the US and UK we are nicely on our way."
Three years later and DAZN has arrived on these shores, with Matchroom ending its long-standing arrangement with Sky Sports to confirm a five-year global deal with DAZN. But what does the deal mean for boxing? How will DAZN attract punters to the new service? And is the long-time plan to move into other sports such as football?
We spoke to DAZN executive vice president Joe Markowski about all these questions and more. A mere 33 years old, Markowski is a seriously impressive figure, sharp as a Savile Row suit and with an eloquence that rivals Eddie himself. It's a fascinating conversation that explores boxing the business as much as boxing the sport.
On DAZN's arrival into boxing...
Our first proper experience in boxing was Floyd Mayweather vs Conor McGregor in 2017. That whet our appetite: we saw how successful a major boxing event could be in dramatically spiking our subscription sales. We saw a huge influx of sales around that event, notably in Germany and Japan. None of us really knew how successful that event was going to be.
On capturing the casual fans
Our platform is very different to Sky. Different businesses, different strategies. Our marketing is increasingly efficient in different ways of reaching consumers. If you look at how we market digitally, we're far more sophisticated than most traditional broadcasters in reaching people online. Take the talent we use in boxing, Maya Jama sat alongside Mike Costello: two very different people, one with a huge social audience of a completely new demographic of people, and Mike Costello who doesn't even have social media.
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On the recent success of Canelo Alvarez vs Billy Joe Saunders
If Canelo vs Billy Joe Saunders had been on Sky, I don't think they would have done a bigger number of subscribers that we did. It was at 5am, we were a brand that was six months old, we hadn't even properly launched in the UK. We did a significant six-figure audience that night of new subscribers in the UK alone. At 5am for the main event. Despite the lack of machinery relevant Sky, despite the lack of the Sky Sports news equivalent and despite the fact we don't have Premier League rights to promote this stuff, we did a huge audience. That makes me very confident that our tactics, our strategy are going to work.
On the possibility of signing Anthony Joshua to DAZN
AJ is his own boss. He runs the show, literally. Eddie works for Anthony Joshua. His advice for AJ will be to maximise AJ's earning potential. There'll be a competitive process for that at the right time, when AJ is ready to have those conversations after the Olexander Usyk fight. AJ will consider the options. I'm sure we'll be a factor, a consideration, but Eddie's affiliation with us is not really relevant.
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On broadening the range of boxing content
I have a theory that boxing is a soap opera. Everything about it is a soap opera. Unlike in other sports, the whole thing is entertaining. I've been in boxing for four years. My first six to eight months in boxing, watching how fights get made and Eddie went about his business, it was unbelievable. You could make an original Netflix or DAZN series. I think there's a fantastic opportunity to pull back the curtain.
On listening to fan feedback
This week there'll be a meeting at DAZN where literally on a slide deck there will be screenshots of the major themes coming from consumer feedback. How we use our talent team, which talent was where during the broadcast, what we did with audio during the breaks between rounds, how our servers performed on different platforms, all that sort of stuff. We'll put together a summary of what we've learned and that will shape how we go into next week and beyond. There's a fan who Eddie has been messaging on Instagram for five years, just because he respects his opinion and wants his feedback.
For more info, see DAZN