DAZN sports streaming service launches in Canada with NFL its first attraction

By The Canadian Press
July 20, 2017 - 1:45pm

TORONTO — Looking to capture the growing number of consumers cutting their cable cord, DAZN has launched a sports streaming service in Canada.

And DAZN (pronounced Da Zone) has started with a bang by offering live and on-demand coverage of every NFL game as the new, exclusive Canadian home of NFL Game Pass, the league's premium digital subscription product.

The DAZN package includes all Sunday games previously offered on NFL Sunday Ticket, plus NFL RedZone, a game-day channel owned and operated by NFL Network.

The new streaming platform is leaving Canadian cable providers out in the cold on the deluxe NFL service.

The DAZN cost is $20 a month or an introductory annual price of $150, with the first 30 days free. The service will be available on everything from smart TVs to tablets and smart phones.

The NFL is the only sport on the Canadian menu so far. But DAZN promises to add more, as it already has in Germany, Austria, Switzerland and Japan. All four launched last August.

For example, the German package now includes English Premier League, Spain's La Liga, Italy's Serie A and France's Ligue 1 soccer plus a Bundesliga highlights package. It also includes NFL, NBA, NHL and Major League Baseball as well as cricket, rugby and tennis among others.

The German package will be bolstered by Champions League soccer beginning 2018-19.

The Japanese package is built around an exclusive 10-year rights agreement for the domestic J-League soccer.  

Hockey will be the big question mark for Canada, with Rogers seemingly holding all the cards thanks to a US$5.232-billion, 12-year deal with the NHL that runs through the 2025-26 season.

That deal gives Rogers national rights to all NHL games, including the Stanley Cup playoffs, on all of its platforms in all languages. Bell is also involved, via regional NHL broadcasts.

But the NFL is a good first card to throw down.

DAZN follows some of Netflix's business model, in terms of flexibility of contract.

"When you see the breadth of other rights, hopefully in the next couple of weeks, you'll see that we're trying to really (provide) choice to the consumers as well and offer up a selection of different sports and different leagues," Alex Rice, DAZN managing director for rights and strategic development, said from London.

DAZN will offer full games live, as well as making them available on demand. In some cases, a condensed game will also be available.

Like Netflix, DAZN recognizes the need to keep varying the menu.

"You obviously have to keep spending — and spending on content. And that's the long-term plan in all the markets," Rice said.

There will be French-language commentary "on key events."

Canada offers DAZN a connected audience in terms of broadband penetration, shown by the success of entertainment streaming services.

"We could see there was clearly an appetite and clearly a movement, in some cases, to cord-cut — and obviously attract a cord-never generation who never bought a pay-TV package and are more used to buying subscription services in this way," Rice said.

The DAZN menu will be a blend of exclusive and shared properties.

Rice declined to divulge subscription numbers in DAZN's existing markets but says there are plans to expand to other countries.

The DAZN announcement seemed to catch competitors by surprise Thursday.

In the past, NFL Sunday Ticket has been available via Canadian cable companies. Rogers, for example, was still advertising it on its website Thursday morning as part of its $39.95 monthly Super Sports Pak.

Rice called it an administrative error, saying DAZN had acquired the Sunday Ticket package.

"And we've chosen not to distribute that on the linear pay-TV platforms in Canada, it will just be available through via the DAZN service," he said.

A Rogers spokeswoman said a selection of NFL games will continue to be available through Canadian and U.S. TV channels.

"It will be disappointing for our customers that the new NFL rights-holder has decided not to make RedZone or NFL Sunday Ticket available on TV to Canadian sports fans at home," the spokeswoman said.

NFL Sunday Ticket will continue to be available to Rogers' commercial customers.

Bell did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

DAZN has substantial backing behind it in the form of Perform Group, a digital sports content and media group. The majority owner of Perform is Access Industries, founded in 1986 by chairman Len Blavatnik, a Ukraine-born American who ranks 40th on Forbes 2017 list of billionaires with a net worth of US$19.5 billion. 

The Canadian launch comes two months after Perform struck a deal with the NFL to market the league's TV rights in various global territories and NFL Game Pass outside the U.S. and Europe.

The "strategic media relationship" covers more than 100 countries and territories, including Canada, Argentina, Australia, Brazil, Hong Kong, India, Israel, Japan, Mexico, New Zealand, South Korea, and Turkey.

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Follow @NeilMDavidson on Twitter

Neil Davidson, The Canadian Press

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Thu, 20 Jul 2017 17:28:56 -0400

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