Entering the ring: London-based DAZN will screen Anthony Joshua’s fights in America
Billionaire Warner Music owner Len Blavatnik is plotting a blockbuster London stock market flotation of his broadcasting service, dubbed the ‘Netflix of sport’.
Hammersmith-based DAZN, which was acquired by Blavatnik’s Access Industries in 2014, is understood to be drawing up options, including a London share sale that would value it at up to £3billion.
DAZN, formerly known as Perform Group, has become one of the UK’s most valuable technology start-ups and is a darling of London’s technology sector.
The company is closing in on a separate sale of its Perform Content division, which includes the Opta sports statistics arm and betting businesses.
Sources said that deal is likely to be a precursor to a potential London listing later this year or next which would raise new cash for growth.
They said the plans have been discussed internally and were still at an early stage. Other options include a possible flotation in the US, where DAZN has been growing its boxing coverage. A sale to a major technology company would also be considered if a lucrative offer came in.
DAZN, pronounced ‘da zone’, hopes to shake up the sports broadcasting market by allowing users to pay a Netflix-like subscription to stream sports live or on demand to smart TVs, phones and tablets.
DAZN has so far steered clear of the UK, which is dominated by Sky and BT, and where TV sports rights command high prices.
Last year, the company signed a ground-breaking, eight-year deal worth $1billion (£750million) with promoter Eddie Hearn’s Matchroom Boxing, which promotes fighters such as Britain’s Anthony Joshua.
The world heavyweight champion’s first US fight in June against Jarrell Miller will be streamed on DAZN to its US audience as part of the deal.
It has the rights to screen all of Joshua’s stateside fights. The matches will be available to British viewers on Sky Sports.
Juventus football superstar Ronaldo is a brand ambassador for DAZN, which last year also signed boxer Saul ‘Canelo’ Alvarez in a five-year, £278million deal that could be the most lucrative in sporting history.
Fight night: DAZN has become one of the UK’s most valuable technology start-ups
Chief executive Simon Denyer has previously spoken about entering the UK market in the next few years.
DAZN, which counts former ESPN president John Skipper as executive chairman, has about 3,000 staff in more than 30 countries, but more than half of those are in the UK.
It opened a new media centre in Leeds in January that will house 350 staff, having already hired more than 750 UK staff in the past 12 months.
DAZN is currently available in Japan, Germany, Austria, Switzerland, Italy, Spain, Canada and the US. It already screens more Champions League matches than any other broadcaster in Germany. Goal.com, which is part of the group, has 100 million users worldwide.
Ukrainian-born Blavatnik is one of Britain’s richest men and also owns record label Warner Music, whose London headquarters in Kensington are around the corner from his £200million mansion. Access Industries also controls music streaming service Deezer.
A London listing would be one of the biggest stock market entries ever for a UK technology start-up. Blavatnik would make several times the £700million he originally paid for Perform Group in 2014.
Last year, Japanese advertising giant Dentsu bought a 10 per cent stake in the business for £300million, valuing the company at £3billion.
This valuation includes the Perform Content arm, which – because it is up for sale – would not form part of a flotation, although the company could also retain the proceeds to reinvest them. A flotation would allow DAZN to tap equity markets and give it the financial firepower to continue spending big money on sports rights.
The latest accounts for the group show losses ballooned in 2017 to £370million as it splashed out on new technology and sports rights around the world as it looks to take on traditional broadcasters.
The London Stock Exchange has suffered a dearth of new listings in recent months amid the Brexit uncertainty.
However, last week Dubai-based payments company Network International was floated in London with a £2.2billion price tag in what was the largest flotation so far this year.
Access Industries and DAZN declined to comment on a possible flotation. However, it said of the sale of the Perform Content business: ‘Discussions of this matter are ongoing and a further announcement will be made if and when appropriate.’
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