If a heavyweight falls on Dazn but no one is around to watch, does he make a sound? That is a thought experiment that the streaming platform, and Anthony Joshua’s promoter Eddie Hearn, will not want to entertain for one second.
On Saturday night, when Joshua fights Jermaine Franklin at London’s O2 Arena, the main event will mark the former champion’s debut on Dazn. It is a belated debut, in a sense; Joshua signed a £100m deal with the platform last summer, ahead of his rematch with Oleksandr Usyk, yet Sky Sports won a bid to air the bout regardless. In doing so, the 33-year-old’s long-time broadcaster was able to secure one last major payday with the face of British boxing.
If it was not ideal for Dazn, the result was even less convenient. Joshua went on to lose that fight in August, leading some to suggest that Dazn were taking on “damaged goods”. And so, Saturday night could arguably be the most important night in the history of the streaming platform, as it hopes that flashes of the old “AJ” can bring about a “new dawn”, as the tagline for Joshua vs Franklin goes.
A new dawn for Joshua, on the back of two straight defeats, and a new dawn for Dazn – that is the aim. But it has been a slow sunrise so far, with the subscription service ultimately partnering with Sky to create its own ‘Dazn 1 HD’ channel, in a bid to preemptively increase viewership for Joshua’s comeback.
Dazn offers three different packages, all of which allow viewers to stream Saturday’s main event with an ease that defies the largely lazy criticism; some have almost approached the platform and Joshua vs Franklin specifically with exasperation, as if Dazn and the fight are buried treasure, elusive but for an exhaustive search. That is not in fact the case, although Dazn’s deal with Sky does complicate matters somewhat, as wise as the partnership is.
In order to access Sky’s new Dazn channel, viewers must sign up for either of two specific Dazn packages, and they must be Sky customers as well. Even then, there is an opt-in process. Sky Stream, Sky Glass and Now TV will not air Joshua vs Franklin, but a late change has seen the fight made available as a Virgin Media pay-per-view.
All of this is to say that Joshua, the most-watched British fighter of his generation, may now be less-watched. The fact that AJ is not in a world-title fight, for the first time in eight years, will surely be a contributing factor to the final figures. For Dazn, it is a matter of navigating this transitory period and negating any drop-off as much as possible.
Joshua vs Usyk 2 did 1.25 million PPV buys on Sky Sports Box Office at a price of £26.95, edging out the figure from the pair’s first fight: 1.23 million at £24.95. Dazn itself claims to have close to 20 million paying subscribers worldwide, with its cheapest package costing £8.33 per month (but with an upfront commitment to 12 months), meaning there is potential for Joshua vs Franklin to reach more viewers than any of the Briton’s previous bouts.
So, why is the feeling that this potential will not be fulfilled?
One reason is the aforementioned assumption that Dazn is inaccessible – a generally off-base presumption, but one encouraged by the intricacies of Dazn’s new deal with Sky. The ‘casual’ fan is more used to finding Joshua via a remote, not their computer. And while Amazon forced its way into the football broadcasting market by securing rights to select Premier League games, proving the status quo can be disrupted, access to its matches is a benefit of an Amazon Prime subscription – an already popular purchase.
Furthermore, Dazn’s 20 million subscribers represent a distant ceiling, rather than a tangible floor. One of Dazn’s highest-profile boxers, Saul “Canelo” Alvarez, did approximately “1.06 million buys worldwide, including PPV and Dazn subscriptions” in his trilogy bout with Gennady Golovkin in September; the Mexican’s fight with Daniel Jacobs in 2019 did 1.2 million. These are more realistic indicators of the kind of number that Joshua could reach.
But while those numbers make up a different audience to the like that AJ has often reached, it is a dedicated audience nonetheless. That will give Hearn and the suits at Dazn hope that the platform’s potential can be fulfilled, though realism would dictate that the process will take time.
Those with a vested interest will hope, in any case, that Joshua can give them a helping hand to speed up that process – whether it be by hook, cross or uppercut.
A Joshua victory, and an emphatic one at that, is not just crucial for the heavyweight’s career, but also for Dazn.
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