Canelo, Golden Boy & DAZN Headed For An Ugly Divorce
By Alex Conway
My DAZN subscription was scheduled to renew on September 8. Sadly, I had to let that bill go and am no longer a subscriber.
Basically, Canelo has a contract with Golden Boy to promote fights. He also has a contract with DAZN for them to broadcast these fights. Golden Boy has a separate contract with DAZN to promote fights in addition to and INCLUDING Canelo’s fights.
That last sentence is the key to the whole dispute because apparently Canelo’s contract with DAZN has very different language.
Essentially DAZN gets to sign off on fights that Golden Boy promotes based on contract language. There is no such language in DAZN’s contract with Canelo. DAZN wants Canelo to fight certain opponents that Canelo doesn’t want to. Canelo is under no legal obligation to oblige DAZN’s opponent requests–but his promoter responsible for putting on his fights (Golden Boy) are.
So DAZN is saying that Golden Boy is in breach of contract for not putting together the fights they want, and are only offering Golden Boy half of the $35 million per fight they are supposed to pay Canelo for each bout. Canelo is telling both of them that whatever problem they have isn’t his problem, and he should get his full amount or he’s not fighting.
This all speaks to a larger more concerning problem that DAZN is facing—they have failed at capturing the American market and haven’t lived up to their promise to “kill pay-per-view.”
The streaming platform became a full-fledged player in the American sports landscape late in 2018. The idea was that they would eventually compete for upcoming sports broadcasting rights and hide those broadcasts behind a paywall that people would need to subscribe to (similar to what ESPN+ does.)
There weren’t any major sports rights readily available when they launched in 2018, so they signed Canelo to a huge $35 million per fight contract scheduled to last for five years.
The idea was that Canelo would fight twice per year (or more) on DAZN, including landmark bouts that would normally sell close to a million buys on pay-per-view.
They thought consumers would be much happier if they knew they could pay $100 one time to watch Canelo (and many other boxing cards) over the course of a year than the standard $100 for a single Canelo fight card, as they had become traditionally accustomed to.
They anticipated that casual fans of the sport who were less inclined to buy pay-per-views would gladly partake with the much lower price tag.
DAZN woefully miscalculated.
Boxing isn’t nearly as popular in America has they thought. The fans who were delighted to sign up for DAZN to watch Canelo and others are the same fans who likely would have bought a pay-per-view no the cost.
Sure they were happy to save the money, but did any casuals decided they were suddenly boxing fans and sign-up for DAZN when the platform basically offers no other sports an American audience would care about?
Because the rest of boxing promoters (and the UFC) have filled the void. PBC and Top Rank now runs more cards than ever on PPV with FOX, ESPN and Showtime all running two or more pay-per-view events over the last 24 months.
The only one that has suffered has been Canelo.
There is no doubt that he is still the most popular fighter in the game, but he isn’t all over the Viacom and Disney platforms during his fight weeks. The networks that once would have covered his events to help sell them are now his competitors.
This probably didn’t matter much to Canelo because DAZN was still handing him a check comparable to what he would have made for most of his pay-per-view events.
But now that appears to be something they are no longer interested in doing and Canelo has essentially been out of the casual media focus for a hot minute.
This isn’t Canelo’s fault. If DAZN couldn’t kill the pay-per-view boxing business after signing far-and-away the biggest box office draw then nobody can.
Not unless the promoters all collectively decide to boycott pay-per-view together.
That will never happen and as such, the chances that Canelo ever fights out the rest of his deal, or even that DAZN survives the length of the original deal, are truly slim.
This has been a colossal failure on DAZN’s end, and one that was fairly predictable. How on Earth were they ever going to recoup the $35 million per fight from Canelo and end up in the black after each fight night, if they didn’t have anything planned to keep fans engaged with their service the other 363 days of the year?
The ship is clearly sinking and the other partners are jumping off. Bellator, the number two MMA promotion in North America, is riding out their contract with DAZN but have made it quite clear their future is on CBS/Showtime the second that timer runs out.
After that, what’s left? Nothing. Absolutely nothing.