Joseph Markowski, the company’s executive vice-president, believes the digital sports streaming service could attract fans in huge numbers
The man at the heart of DAZN’s move to take on the traditional boxing broadcasters in a blue-collar sport is a 31-year-old millennial public schoolboy who is the grandson of a Polish countess.
Joseph Markowski believes the digital sports streaming service, available at the budget cost of £1.99 per month, could attract fans in large numbers to the channel.
Markowski, whose grandparents met in a concentration camp during the war before moving to London, explained the genesis of his ascent into the corridors of power at the online broadcast platform which has become known as the “Netflix of Sport”. “I was doing my MBA at Imperial College, studied the growth of subscription broadcasting and music and entertainment, and made a series of recommendations on what we could do in sport. The board had seen it in music before. I was just lucky to be in the right place at the right time. I was part of the original five-man team of what became DAZN. Now there’s 3,000 people globally.”
Markowski, now the company’s executive vice-president, has overseen the global expansion from the United States, Japan and seven other territories into 200 new countries. It launched that last week, but the company’s forward-looking long-term plan could even lead to buying out football rights in this country.
DAZN already has Premier League and Champions League rights in Asia. But boxing, a vibrant, lucrative sports entertainment commodity with broadcasters, will be the starting point to expand the company owned by the billionaire businessman Sir Len Blavatnik.
“We as sports fans want to disrupt and democratise sports media markets around the world,” Markowski says. “We recognise sport content is extremely expensive in most countries in the world. Let’s take the US, I’ve lived here for many years. You are a sports fan, you’re paying for cable access to all your major sports networks, $200 a month depending on where you live and who you go with.
“If you’re a boxing fan on top of that you’re being asked six or seven times a year to pay $60 or $80 bucks a year for a pay-per-view fan. The US is an extreme example, the UK is cheaper but it’s still not a great deal.
“We want to make the relationship between consumer and broadcaster more consumer friendly. We don’t have lengthy contracts. We have monthly or annual subscriptions, their choice. In all of our countries we operate at a much lower cost than our competitors. The price point we’ve gone with in the UK of £1.99 is reflective of that. We want to reduce and remove the cost barrier.”
Boxing has been one of the company’s market leaders. “We have used boxing and that was primarily for the US until now,” Markowski says. “It’s been a fantastic journey and we’ve learnt a hell of a lot. Boxing does not operate and organise itself like other sports. When you’re a broadcaster and you buy the Premier League rights or Bundesliga rights, there’s a very organised central governing body that gives you the schedule in a pdf. That allows you to plan your schedule for the next 12 months.
“Boxing is completely different, every event is a completely separate event, every event needs its own narrative. Making fights is challenging. You have to work much harder or build schedules. You never really know more than five or six months ahead of time what content you’ve got to play with. So much can go wrong.
“For a business like ourselves trying to establish ourselves in a market we’re trying to disrupt boxing and boxing promoters make a lot of noise. As a result we want to continue to invest in boxing. Boxing allows us a framework to build from.”
DAZN spends $25 million annually on its boxing output, which includes coverage in the US of some of the biggest fights and events, including the last two fights of world heavyweight champion Anthony Joshua. It also has a deal with Eddie Hearn’s Matchroom USA boxing company, reportedly worth $1 billion to the British promoter over eight years. “Anthony Joshua is the global superstar in boxing,” Markowski says. “He ticks every box and his appeal is increasingly international. Outside of the UK and Ireland the only place to watch AJ v Pulev was on DAZN. We carry those rights exclusively. We’ve had a three-year relationship with AJ, he’s fantastic and an ardent professional, and one of our key players.”
But is it not a little strange that an ex-public schoolboy is working around fighters? Not for Markowski. “The boxing audience spans a greater breath of society than people give it credit for. The Marquess of Queensberry invented the rules and a boy from a very nice part of Essex is the world’s biggest promoter,” Markowski says. “Remember, Hearn is a public schoolboy as well. I’m not intimidated at all by the fact that I am dealing with athletes involved in the toughest sport on earth.”