Sports streaming service DAZN, which disrupted boxing by spurning the traditional pay-per-view model, is partnering with cable providers to let boxing fans watch Saturday’s Canelo Alvarez title fight through their TVs for $69.99.
DAZN and In Demand, which distributes to 55 million homes, will make the fight available to cable subscribers in a pay-per-view—of sorts. Buyers will receive a gift code for a four-month DAZN subscription, and will be allowed to watch Alvarez fight Callum Smith in Texas on Dec. 19 as a one-off via their cable box.
It’s a new strategy for DAZN, which is backed by billionaire Len Blavatnik and run by former ESPN president John Skipper. As it looks to grow its U.S. customer base, the company is trying to reach fight fans accustomed to buying traditional pay-per-views, who might need an additional nudge to find a digital-only product like DAZN.
“DAZN’s global strategy is to provide sports fans access to our content in any environment where they’re seeking it,” said Rob Stecklow, DAZN’s senior vice president of subscriptions. “This is just another way to present our content to boxing fans, in the more traditional way that they seek it out.”
In Demand distributes to its trio of owners, Comcast, Charter and Cox, plus other cable providers such as Verizon, Altice and AT&T. The providers will receive a cut of each $69.99 payment and will share in the upside should any of those new DAZN subscribers choose to keep paying for the service once their four-month trial expires.
Some people will undoubtedly use this offer as a traditional PPV, just like some will pay the one-month DAZN fee of $20 just to stream the fight. The fact that many are willing to pay 3.5 times more just to get it on their cable box underscores one of DAZN’s biggest hurdles: Many boxing fans care more about the way they watch fights than they do about what they cost.
DAZN’s emergence in global boxing has been considered a threat to the traditional pay-per-view model. Instead of paying a la carte for big fights, DAZN wants fans to pay monthly subscriptions to access a whole host of fights—some major title fights, and others less notable. Stecklow insisted that this is not DAZN reverting back to the older model.
“It’s not pay-per-view,” he said. “People may think that, but it’s just not true. If it were true, we would just sell you the fight and not give you the four months of access. We’re trying to create a long-term relationship with boxing fans in the U.S.; we just want to find them and want them to find us.”
Boxing has become the principal global focus for DAZN. It operates in specific markets with a wider range of sports rights, but for most of its 200 countries (including the U.S.), fights are the primary product. DAZN has committed hundreds of millions in the past few years to building a stable of boxers and promoters, a roster that includes current heavyweight champion Anthony Joshua and Gennady Golovkin.
That Alvarez, one of the sport’s biggest stars, is even fighting on DAZN again is a surprise to some fans. In 2018, the media upstart signed Alvarez to a 12-fight deal worth $365 million, at the time the largest single-athlete contract in history. Alvarez’s promoter, Golden Boy, was a party to the deal, and the three sides struggled to agree on who held final say regarding the boxer’s opponents.
Alvarez sued both DAZN and Golden Boy in September for fraud and breach of contract, then negotiated a separation from his promotion that included the termination of his contract with DAZN. For this upcoming fight, he’s working with one of DAZN’s partners, promoter Matchroom Boxing, so DAZN will carry the bout.
The $69.99 price was designed to be less than the standard cost for four months of DAZN ($20 per month), and also slightly below the typical price of a big-time boxing pay-per-view. The Dec. 5 bout between Errol Spence Jr. and Danny Garcia cost pay-per-view buyers $74.99.
It’s unclear how many people DAZN expects to treat this offer as just a pay-per-view, without ever entering the code and signing up for the streaming service. For those people, however, DAZN will have email addresses and names of fight fans who might be convinced to make the move at another time. They will also have the broadcast itself to help make the pitch.
“When you watch an NFL game on NBC, they use time within the telecasts to promote other NBCUniversal properties,” Stecklow said. “When you’re watching this fight, we will promote our upcoming shows, and more importantly, how you can redeem your gift code to get access because you bought the pay-per-view subscription. If you’re watching at your friend’s house, we want you to know what DAZN is and how to access it.”
(This story has updated the day of the fight in the first paragraph.)