DAZN, ESPN+ Finish The Year Swinging

This past Saturday’s (Dec. 14) Terence Crawford-Egidijus Kavaliauskas welterweight championship fight card on ESPN+ finished off a busy December for boxing on sports streaming services that could set up a potentially strong 2020 in the boxing ring.

ESPN+ was scheduled to stream the preliminary fights from the Crawford- Kavaliauskas fight card prior to ESPN’s coverage of the main event. Crawford-Kavaliauskas followed DAZN’s Dec. 7 Anthony Joshua-Andy Ruiz heavyweight rematch, in which Joshua regained the heavyweight titles he lost to Ruiz in their first bout in June.

Anthony Joshua's Dec. 7 victory over Andy Ruiz sets up several intriguing 2020 possibilities for DAZN. 

Anthony Joshua's Dec. 7 victory over Andy Ruiz sets up several intriguing 2020 possibilities for DAZN. 

DAZN would not reveal any specific subscription numbers related to Joshua-Ruiz, but Joshua’s win positions the network to create several big fights for the heavyweight champion in 2020, including potential unification fights against either Deontay Wilder or Tyson Fury. Fury and Wilder are expected to meet in a February rematch bout; their 2018 fight ended in a draw.

“Joshua’s victory marks a pivotal shift in the heavyweight division and a big win for DAZN,” Joseph Markowski, DAZN executive VP, North America, said. “AJ was the first major event we announced for our U.S. service and we look forward to working with him on big fights in 2020 and beyond.”

The $19.99-per-month subscription streaming service is also positioned to develop a number of big fights in 2020 with a roster of marquee fighters that also includes light heavyweight champion Canelo Alvarez and middleweight champion Gennady Golovkin.

ESPN and boxing promoter Top Rank are also looking ahead to creating a number of fights with core fighters including Crawford, Fury, bantamweight champion Naoya Inoue and lightweight champion Vasyl Lomachenko, arguably boxing’s best on a pound-for-pound basis.

Matt Kenny, ESPN’s VP of programming for combat sports, said the network has aggressively used its various platforms — the ESPN cable network, ESPN+ streaming service and traditional pay-per-view — to showcase boxing talent to fight fans.

“Our approach to covering the sport will continue to focus on growing the sport and its top talent by connecting fans to great fights and fighters across both direct-to-consumer and linear networks in a strongly complementary way,” Kenny said. “We are incredibly excited about boxing in 2020, when three of the four best pound-for-pound fighters in the world, and arguably the top heavyweight in the world, will all fight on ESPN+ and ESPN networks, along with a long list of the most exciting up and coming fighters.”

Sports analyst Lee Berke said streaming services such as ESPN+ and DAZN will continue to seek out the best fights in an effort to build subscriptions. “If you’re a big enough fighter it has been shown that DAZN and other services will pay you X to secure future fights,” he said. “There’s a lot of money behind these [streaming] businesses to secure content.”

R. Thomas Umstead

R. Thomas Umstead serves as senior content producer, programming for Multichannel News, Broadcasting + Cable and Next TV. During his more than 30-year career as a print and online journalist, Umstead has written articles on a variety of subjects ranging from TV technology, marketing and sports production to content distribution and development. He has provided expert commentary on television issues and trends for such TV, print, radio and streaming outlets as Fox News, CNBC, the Today show, USA Today, The New York Times and National Public Radio. Umstead has also filmed, produced and edited more than 100 original video interviews, profiles and news reports featuring key cable television executives as well as entertainers and celebrity personalities.