It seems there are some changes ahead for DAZN. Back in 2014, billionaire Len Blavatnik’s Access Industries acquired majority control of Perform Group, the U.K.-based umbrella company covering Opta statistics, sports betting services, and content operations ranging from The Sporting News to Goal.com to Omnisport. In 2016, Perform launched over-the-top streaming service DAZN in several markets around the world (it wouldn’t launch in the U.S. until 2018), and last year, they renamed the overall group to DAZN Group.
And now, as per Scott Soshnick, David Hellier, and Nabila Ahmed of Bloomberg, DAZN is in talks to sell off some of the Perform content to Vista Equity Partners:
Billionaire Len Blavatnik’s DAZN Group is close to a deal to sell its Perform content business to Vista Equity Partners, a person familiar with the matter said.
The business, which includes data collection and distribution and services for betting operations, will be sold to help DAZN fund acquisitions of live sports rights, the person said, asking not to be identified because the discussions are private. It wasn’t immediately clear how much Vista was paying. No final decision has been made and the sale may still not materialize, the person said.
Murad Ahmed and James Fontanella-Khan of The Financial Times have more detail on what’s going on here:
A person with knowledge of the negotiations said the potential buyer is Vista, a US fund which currently owns STATS, a rival sports statistics group. But the person added a deal had not been completed.
In a statement, DAZN Group said that following a previously announced strategic review, it is “engaged in discussions with a potential buyer of Perform. Discussions of this matter are ongoing and a further announcement will be made if and when appropriate.”
Perform was listed in the UK in 2011 but taken private by Access in 2014 for £702m. The group recently hit a £3bn valuation when it sold a 10 per cent stake to Dentsu, the Japanese advertising group, for £300m, in a deal that made it the UK’s most valuable technology start-up.
The move will allow DAZN Group to focus entirely on its rapidly expanding streaming service.
It’s unclear what exactly would be included in this sale. The statistics and betting services in particular are an obvious acquisition for Vista, potentially providing them some synergies with STATS. But it’s not clear if this would also cover the likes of The Sporting News, an outlet that’s been a useful way for Perform to promote DAZN.
Also, it’s notable that the logic here is to “help DAZN fund acquisitions of live sports rights.” They definitely need to pick up some more sports, at least in the U.S., as their boxing-heavy lineup (plus Bellator MMA and MLB whiparound show ChangeUp) isn’t going to appeal to everyone, especially at a $19.99/month price point. But there aren’t a lot of prime U.S. sports rights out there at the moment, certainly not on exclusive basis. And DAZN’s limited penetration and high price point so far doesn’t exactly make them a compelling option for many leagues for an exclusive deal. (No matter how many times they claim they’re the “Netflix of sports,” a bad label that still somehow made it into the Financial Times article.)
It’s possible that this could lead in the short run to DAZN making some inroads with other alternative programming like the MLB whiparound show. One logical candidate might be something similar with the NHL; ChangeUp is out of the MLB Network/NHL Network shared studios in New Jersey, and while NHLN already has its own nightly whiparound show with On The Fly, MLBN’s MLB Tonight and FS1’s MLB Whiparound didn’t preclude ChangeUp. But there could be other opportunities out there in other leagues. And maybe that will help them build a user base and a reputation in the U.S., which could help when more prime rights and exclusive options become available. At any rate, it will be worth keeping an eye on this sale, and on DAZN’s future plans.