Could NHL Show Be Next Big Deal For DAZN?

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DAZN’s appetite for sports rights keeps growing. The subscription streaming service has had exploratory talks with the National Hockey League about creating a RedZone-like whiparound show, sources tell Front Office Sports.

The proposed NHL show would be similar to DAZN’s nightly Major League Baseball program, ChangeUp. Hosted by former ESPN anchor Adnan Virk, the weeknight show whips around live MLB games to highlight the key hits, plays and catches.  

DAZN’s possible nightly NHL show would be included to customers as part of the streaming service’s monthly $19.99 subscription fee, said sources. 

Hockey fans have traditionally felt underserved by national sports cable networks like ESPN that don’t have NHL rights. They would likely welcome any additions to national hockey coverage offered by U.S. rightsholder NBC Sports and NBCSN and local coverage from regional sports networks.

DAZN, which already has NHL rights in Austria, Germany, Italy and Switzerland, declined to comment. The NHL did not respond to a request for comment on this story by its publish time.

With former ESPN executives John Skipper and Jamie Horowitz at the helm, DAZN (pronounced DA-zone) has become increasingly interested in North American sports rights.

Similar to the NHL, the sports media startup has also held preliminary talks with the NBA about a live, whiparound show, according to Brooks Melchior of 

DAZN even has its eyes on the NFL’s streaming rights in the U.S., according to Bloomberg. This spring, DAZN signed a three-year deal to stream all 380 English Premier League games across Canada starting in August 2019.

DAZN’s talks with the NHL and NBA are likely to remain at the early stages until the NFL makes a decision on its Sunday Ticket deal with DirecTV, said sources.

DirecTV is paying $1.5 billion a year through the 2022 season for the NFL’s satellite and streaming rights. But the NFL has the right to opt out of the DirecTV deal after the 2019 season, according to ProFootballTalk. The NFL would have to inform DirecTV that it opting out of the existing deal before the league kicks off its 100th season on September 5, with Green Bay Packers taking on the Chicago Bears. AT&T acquired DirecTV for $67.1 billion in 2015.

If the NFL’s over-the-top (OTT) streaming rights become available, DAZN will likely back up the Brinks truck for those rights, said sources.

If the league sticks with DirecTV, or moves to another provider, then DAZN will take the war chest it has been saving for the NFL and go hard after the NHL and NBA, said sources.

Besides MLB, DAZN mostly offers boxing in the U.S. Landing NHL, NBA and NHL deals, on top of MLB, could do for DAZN what landing NFL TV rights did for a fledgling Fox Sports in 1994.

“We’re definitely interested in looking at the NFL rights,” DAZN Chief Executive Officer Simon Denyer said in an interview with Bloomberg. “Our strategy is to be a major player in sports rights via OTT, and the U.S. and Canada have the highest penetration of OTT in the world.”

DAZN already has streaming rights to the NFL in Canada, but it was DAZN’s deal with MLB that really changed the game, said sources.

Once baseball signed on the dotted line, other U.S. sports leagues wanted to hear about what DAZN could do for them. 

Between them, Skipper and Horowitz were involved in rights negotiations worth billions of dollars at ESPN. Their familiar presence has made U.S. sports leagues more comfortable about dealing with DAZN.

There’s plenty of hurdles before DAZN forges any contracts with the NHL or NBA, however. Any deals would likely have to be approved by team owners. The league’s current TV partners, such as ESPN, Fox Sports, CBS Sports and NBC for the NFL, and ESPN and Turner Sports for the NBA, won’t just roll over. They’re likely to fight tooth and nail over who has rights to what.

READ MORE: DAZN Group To Focus on Streaming

But where there’s a will – and a big fat DAZN paycheck – there may be a way. 

The sports leagues are smart to prepare for a future where younger fans prefer to watch events on their phones and mobile devices, according to Steven Miller, director of undergraduate studies in journalism at Rutgers University.

“These leagues are seeing the next generation is not going to be buying a TV set, sitting down and watching Fox,” Miller said.

The hard truth is that sports media “is not an appointment world any more,” added Miller. Younger fans watch games when they, not the TV networks, decide. 

“This generation just doesn’t seem to care. They have a nice way of hiding away from the world until they decide it’s time to watch,” Miller said.

The sports leagues like to play networks off against each other to get the highest price. Sports marketing expert Bob Dorfman of Baker Street Advertising said the advent of DAZN gives the leagues another deep-pocketed bidder for the most valuable content in entertainment: live sports rights.

“The more streaming services bidding for sports league rights, the higher the fees the leagues can command. And they’d love to spread their games around,” said Dorfman. “Live sports are hot, the ultimate reality programming, reaching the most valued demographics. Everyone wants a piece of the action.”