At the end of March, DAZN decided to withhold rights fees for cancelled content and said furloughs for employees were coming (per an internal email obtained by John Ourand of Sports Business Journal). As per Lance Pugmire of The Athletic, those furloughs have now arrived and will impact the entire live events team through early July, and they’ll also involve a postponement of all planned DAZN boxing events until at least July. Pugmire writes that DAZN will provide all furloughed employees 50 percent pay and full medical benefits, and he includes these notable quotes from boxing officials:
“They’re a live-sports streaming company and right now there are no live sports to stream,” said a boxing official familiar with DAZN’s thinking. “In aggregate, there is less work to do across the platform, so they’ve made the difficult decision to temporarily furlough staff in an effort to conserve cash in an uncertain time and be in the best position possible once live sports are back in play.”
…One boxing official said those leading the subscription service decided it is better to function “like a bear hibernating in the winter … wake up from all this, be well-rested and ready to go on with a big finish throughout the rest of the year.”
Of course, there are things that could alter this. The furloughs have the possibility of being lifted early if the situation changes. And it’s notable that DAZN may get a small portion of its live sports back before July; the German Bundesliga and 2. Bundesliga are hoping to resume play in empty stadiums in May, and while DAZN only has live and on-demand rights for those leagues in Germany and Austria (plus highlights rights in Switzerland), that could at least help them in those markets. But either way, it’s certainly significant that they’re now moving all their boxing events to at least July, especially with other combat sports bodies like the UFC still pushing to hold events.
Some of the affected fights here include Regis Prograis-Maurice Hooker (initially set for April 17), Demetrius Andrade-Liam Williams (which was in negotiations that were called off thanks to the pandemic), Canelo Alvarez-Billy Joe Saunders (initially set for May 2, although it was never formally announced), and Anthony Joshua-Kubrat Pulev (initially set for June 20), and those are some big ones. The Alvarez-Saunders fight in particular may not happen now, as Alvarez is set for his third bout against Gennadiy Golovkin in September. And DAZN is hoping to use that fight as the anchor of a strong fall and winter lineup.
These times are difficult for all sports networks, but they seem particularly difficult for DAZN on several fronts. For one, DAZN is a standalone streaming service, so it’s easier to cancel a subscription to them; base-tier cable channels like ESPN and FS1 can’t be easily cancelled without cancelling a pay-TV service altogether, so those channels are still getting lots of per-subscriber fees. For another, most of the countries where DAZN has a strong presence have been hit pretty hard by COVID-19. And even DAZN executive chairman John Skipper contracted the virus (although he has reportedly recovered now). We’ll see what’s ahead for DAZN, but it doesn’t look like it’s going to include any live boxing until at least July.