After taking a mandatory eight count due to the global pandemic caused by COVID-19, DAZN will be going back on the offensive and kickstart a free beta version test during its series of shows this summer.
The streaming service is inviting users to register their interest in testing a beta version for a trio of boxing events, beginning with the July 24 card headlined by Vergil Ortiz Jr. when he takes on Samuel Vargas in Indio, California, according to Sports Business.
DAZN will be targeting users outside its existing markets of Austria, Brazil, Canada, Germany, Italy, Japan, Spain, Switzerland and the United States.
The same free beta test set-up will be made available for the August 15 show featuring Julio Cesar Martinez when he takes on McWilliams Arroyo in Tulsa, Oklahoma for a defense of his WBC flyweight title, followed by the August 28 show headlined by a fight between Jorge Linares and Javier Fortuna.
DAZN sent the following email to users who'd previously registered and expressed interest in the beta product: “A number of fans will be selected on a first come, first served basis to take part in our Beta Community. Beta testers can participate in beta testing, feedback and research to help improve the DAZN service before it officially launches.”
DAZN has not staged a live boxing event in the United States since Mikey Garcia defeated Jessie Vargas on Feb. 29.
On March 2, DAZN announced that it would be expanding to more than 200 countries and territories, and that the first global event would be around Canelo Alvarez’s fight on May 2. An Alvarez bout with Billy Joe Saunders that was agreed upon but later suspended due to the pandemic.
In the press release outlining its plans for expansion, the OTT company said “the first phase of DAZN’s global expansion will be an English-language service focused on boxing, building on the company’s significant investment in the sport over the past two years.”
“Since our launch in 2016, we’ve seen an encouraging level of interest around our key events from both international fans and potential partners, which highlighted the opportunity to capitalize on our existing rights portfolio within boxing to fuel our expansion,” DAZN executive vice president Joseph Markowski said at the time. “Establishing DAZN as the global home of fight sports is just the first step.”
Global shutdowns due to COVID-19, however, immediately disrupted the digital broadcaster’s business and plans for expansion, and they have been left trying to piece the company back together ever since.
The Financial Times reported in May that DAZN was searching for a cash infusion and even entertaining the idea of selling its entire business. The New York Times reported last month that DAZN was looking to sell assets like Goal.com to the tune of $125 million in order to recoup some money. DAZN has also wanted to withhold rights payments to leagues that are shut down.
Last week, DAZN had a shake-up atop leadership as chief executive Simon Denyer left his role and was replaced by acting chief executive James Rushton; they’ve also furloughed staff throughout the pandemic as well.
With live boxing set to return on its platform, DAZN is getting ready for a new kind of fight, and it will begin with its beta testing.
Manouk Akopyan is a sports journalist and member of the Boxing Writers Assn. of America since 2011. He has written for the likes of the LA Times, Guardian, USA Today, Philadelphia Inquirer, Men’s Health and NFL.com. He can be reached on Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn and YouTube at @ManoukAkopyan or via email at manouk[dot]akopyan[at]gmail.com.