DAZN counts more than 4 million subscribers for sports streaming

DENVER – The sports streaming service DAZN has reached about 4 million subscribers “on the positive side of that,” said Joe Markowski, DAZN executive vice president for North America, at the FierceVideo Pay TV show today.

DAZN hired former ESPN President John Skipper last year and went live with streaming events in the United States in September 2018. The startup first made a name for itself with international sporting events in Europe and Asia. The service is now available in nine markets: Germany, Austria, Switzerland, Japan, Canada, Italy, Spain, Brazil, and the US. Asked to confirm rumors that DAZN would be in 20 markets by 2020, Markowski said, “I think we’re very much on track to do that.”

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DAZN has been called “the Netflix of sports,” although Markowski said he would “get a slap of the wrist” if he called it that. The company’s main investor is Ukrainian-born billionaire Len Blavatnik.

In the U.S., the company is primarily funded by subscription. It offers a $99 annual pass or a $19.99 per month subscription. It’s offering boxing events in the US to initially drive subscriptions. But it doesn’t plan to remain a niche service. Outside of the US, DAZN holds streaming rights to league sports including the NFL, NBA and NHL, and Markowski said the company is in conversations with these leagues to expand its offerings in the U.S.

He also said the company is open to partnering with U.S. telcos as a strategy to generate marketing and brand awareness. “We are open for business with wireless partners.” In Japan, DAZN has partnered with NTT Docomo.

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Markowski also talked a bit about the OTT company’s technology. He said, “Very few sports broadcasters operate internationally,” and it’s difficult to build a technology platform to handle live-streaming across geographies and with low latency. DAZN brought in Ben Lavender as its chief product officer to work along with its CTO Florian Diederichsen. Lavender had previously worked as a product leader for the Amazon Video Store.  Markowski said, “There wasn’t an available off-the-shelf that could handle live content, so we built a bespoke technology stack, partnering with seven or eight partners. It definitely was not the easiest option. We definitely had our moments of failure.”

Markowski said it’s important for OTT vendors, as a whole, to instill confidence in consumers that the technology is reliable. “I’ve seen friends smirk as other OTT competitors fall over,” he said. “If ESPN plus falls over on a Saturday afternoon, that’s not good for us. We as an industry have a responsibility to give trust in the stability of the technology.”