Joe Markowski knows boxing fans almost never forgive or forget, particularly when it comes to broken promotional promises.
Now that DAZN has been forced to acknowledge that pay-per-view is very much alive and well, the last thing the streaming service’s savvy executive vice president intends to do is pretend he and its partners didn’t guarantee the elimination of that platform when they brazenly burst into the U.S. boxing market almost four years ago. The economic reality – as Markowski, other DAZN executives and promoter Eddie Hearn eventually learned through trial and error – is that they cannot compensate Canelo Alvarez what he is worth to them and their deep-pocketed competitors without airing the Mexican superstar’s fights on pay-per-view.
DAZN streamed six Alvarez fights as part of its base subscription package from December 2018 until last May 8, but its decision-makers determined that type of investment isn’t sustainable without charging more than $99.99 per year or $19.99 per month.
In order to meet Alvarez’s asking prices for a fight with WBA light heavyweight champ Dmitry Bivol on May 7 at T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas and a tentatively scheduled third showdown with rival Gennadiy Golovkin on September 17, DAZN will charge non-subscribers the same amount Al Haymon’s Premier Boxing Champions and Showtime charged for Alvarez’s 11th-round stoppage of Caleb Plant on November 6.
Alvarez-Bivol will cost those that haven’t signed up for DAZN $79.99, which includes one month of DAZN after May 7. Annual and monthly subscribers can buy that 12-round fight for Bivol’s WBA light heavyweight title for $59.99.
Consumers can avoid DAZN’s app entirely through traditional pay-per-view platforms, namely DirecTV and In Demand. Purchasing the Alvarez-Bivol card through cable and satellite operators likely will cost $79.99, but that price hadn’t been released by DAZN as of Friday morning.
Luring Alvarez back to DAZN – which signed him to an ill-fated 10-fight, $365 million deal in the fall of 2018 – was widely viewed as a victory for the company funded by Ukrainian billionaire Len Blavatnik. Markowski acknowledged, though, that prematurely predicting pay-per-view’s demise was a mistake.
“We are learning,” Markowski told BoxingScene.com. “And it’s why we’re not shirking away, and I’m not personally shirking away from comments we made about pay-per-view four years ago. I’m not gonna try and pretend that was just a marketing campaign, or I was just poking the bear. At the time, we genuinely believed it. We’re humble enough and honest enough to admit that we maybe, in hindsight, got that wrong. But ultimately, do we still maintain the commitment to value to our consumers? Absolutely.
“And I’m happy to have a conversation, hand on heart, with anyone in the market about, you know, the value we offer to boxing fans relative to our competitors. We are absolutely best in class at that, and we will continue to be, despite occasionally, sparingly using pay-per-view to commercialize our fights. I’d be insincere if I said, ‘You know, we were only joking about that.’ We weren’t. We believed it at the time.”
Markowski looks at DAZN’s show Saturday in San Diego as a prime example of properly serving hardcore boxing fans.
Matching iconic Nicaraguan super flyweight Roman “Chocolatito” Gonzalez against ambitious WBC flyweight champion Julio Cesar Martinez has generated considerable excitement among those most loyal to this sport. Their 12-round, 115-pound fight is quite a consolation clash for those that were looking forward to the rubber match between Gonzalez and WBC super flyweight champ Juan Francisco Estrada, who withdrew from their third fight due to COVID-19.
The card headlined by Gonzalez (50-3, 41 KOs) and Mexico’s Martinez (18-1, 14 KOs, 2 NC) is the fourth and seemingly most attractive event DAZN will stream for eight straight weeks in February and March from England, Mexico and the United States. Markowski indicated a similar slate of fights will be announced for May, June and July in the coming weeks.
Markowski also emphasized that DAZN will use pay-per-view “sparingly,” mostly for Alvarez’s appearances and heavyweight title fights involving British superstar Anthony Joshua, if DAZN can secure those rights.
“In 12 months, let’s look at the pay-per-view year, starting today, and looking back to 12 months of pay-per-view activity,” Markowski said. “I guarantee you, if you wanna talk about value at the end of that 12 months, see how much value has been served to boxing fans in that 12 months, we’ll be at the top of that tree.”
Regardless, Markowski is convinced DAZN spent wisely on two more fights involving Alvarez (57-1-2, 39 KOs), which could earn the four-division champion more than $100 million combined for boxing Bivol (19-0, 11 KOs) and Golovkin (41-1-1, 36 KOs). Haymon offered Alvarez comparable money to fight WBC middleweight champ Jermall Charlo (32-0, 22 KOs) and, if he would’ve won, former WBC super middleweight champ David Benavidez (25-0, 22 KOs) on Showtime Pay-Per-View.
“We know how integral [Alvarez was] to our launch in the U.S. and our growth in the early days of DAZN USA,” Markowski said. “We’re a lot smarter about what he means to our boxing business now. We’re making far more economically sound decisions than I think we did then by understanding our business. As a result, we know what he’s worth to us. He is a shrewd businessman as well. He knows his own value. I’m very confident in the deal we’ve done.
“Although the numbers are eye-watering if you look at them on their own, without the context, we know that the numbers are economically sensible for our business and it allows us to continue serving boxing fans with the best value in the market whilst giving a high quantity and quality of shows through the year. So, it’s good business for us, it’s good business for him and it’s good for Matchroom. It’s a no-brainer.”
Keith Idec is a senior writer/columnist for BoxingScene.com. He can be reached on Twitter @Idecboxing.