Eddie Hearn’s Matchroom has signed a huge deal with DAZN
When The Independent was invited to Matchroom USA’s Manhattan office three years ago to hear about their new seismic “billion dollar deal” there was a big, fat elephant lodged somewhere between the coffee machine and Eddie Hearn’s desk. DAZN had agreed a scarcely believable eight-year deal with Matchroom worth around £92.5m per year, for which they would stage 16 shows in the US every 12 months. That meant Hearn would have more than £5m to spend on each of them.
The numbers were staggering then and they still are now. The big question, therefore, that lingered on that scorching day in May of 2018 was – what on earth will happen to Sky?
Although Matchroom and Sky’s relationship had been long and fruitful since Hearn penned an exclusive deal way back in 2012, there was simply no way they could ever compete with that level of investment for the ordinary non-pay-per-view shows the like of which Matchroom were still contracted to provide on the other side of the pond. There was now normal money and DAZN money up for grabs for his fighters on both sides of the Atlantic and it felt like Sky, still rightly spending big on Premier League football, were on borrowed time when it came to boxing. The response from Hearn back in New York was that the UK market was not currently on the agenda for DAZN, who were big in Japan, Canada, Germany and were moving into the US. Sky were safe and happy with the arrangement. That all changed, of course, when DAZN made their move.
And make a move they have. The worst kept secret in boxing has now been confirmed; that DAZN and Matchroom have signed a five-year deal reportedly worth around £100m, officially ending Hearn and his fighters’ association with Sky.
“It was a very difficult decision because we work with Sky on a number of sports,” Hearn said. “Boxing has been such a huge success so it was very difficult. But I think when they understood the structure of the deal I felt even they had to shake my hand and say ‘good luck, son’. It was too big an opportunity to expand globally, it was too big an opportunity to make these big fights.
“They were very disappointed but it is business.”
One key driver for the switch appears to be the promise that Matchroom Media will handle not only the promotion of events but all the production too. Before, Sky would handle the nuts and bolts but now Matchroom will have complete control over their shows.
You may wonder why the promoter also needs control of the production but in a sport where narrative is king – and any big fight needs a story – it makes total sense.
“It’s the cradle-to-grave mindset,” Hearn says. “From inception to completion. I just felt that we’re creating an event, building a narrative and then getting to the production element and the live delivery, we don’t have control of that or the ability to shape it.
“All our negotiations with all broadcasters for this deal was that Matchroom Media would run the production element of the deal. That also includes recruiting all the talent. I’d like to thank DAZN because there is a huge investment to the production levels that you’ll see on these shows well beyond the level that we’ve been operating on for the last few years.”
That day in Manhattan, Hearn had spoken of the impending “eradication” of pay-per-view. Again, given he was still promoting such shows back on home soil, that did not sit quite right. But on signing with DAZN, the Matchroom boss will no longer have to stand in front of cameras and justify why certain fights require another £19.99 of a Sky subscriber’s money.
“I felt over the last few years, with the inflation of purses due to the success of the sport, we’ve been more reliant on the pay-per-view model,” Hearn said. “How many times have we had a debate about ‘is it pay-per-view or not?’ But now, what this deal allows us to do is make those fight nights and cards as part of the DAZN schedule.”
The so-called Netflix of sport is currently available to subscribers in the UK for just £1.99. DAZN’s fresh-faced EVP Joe Markowski says this “special introductory price point” will be extended for Matchroom’s launch but customers can expect that price to rise before the winter.
One man who does fall outside the deal, however, is Anthony Joshua, who has one fight left with Sky Sports and will thereafter become a free agent. “In terms of his broadcast deal there is no pushing or guiding of Anthony Joshua to DAZN from us,” Hearn insisted. “That is a decision for us, him and his management company 258 and him to look at the market and the opportunities. He is the biggest star in British boxing and potentially world boxing.
“I cannot speak for DAZN but I am sure they would like to welcome him to the platform and they already show his fights globally.”
As we’ve seen over the last three years, DAZN have the financial clout to get what they want in the end. They’ve finally got Matchroom and they could eventually get AJ too.