DAZN Raises Pressure on Sky With German Soccer Rights Grab

DAZN Group increased its share of premium soccer broadcasting rights in Germany, stepping up a campaign to unseat Comcast Corp.’s Sky Plc as the main provider of sports in Europe’s largest economy.

The streaming startup backed by billionaire Len Blavatnik warded off rivals including Amazon.com Inc. to secure the rights to stream Bundesliga matches on Friday and Sunday from next year through mid-2025, the German league said Monday in a statement. That’s more than what it has now.

While Sky won the coveted rights for all Saturday games and will continue to show the most matches, its total number of top-flight games will drop from the current season, according to the results of the auction. The league said it raised 4.4 billion euros ($4.95 billion), slightly less than in 2016, when proceeds amounted to 4.64 billion euros.

Amazon, seen by many as a major contender, came up empty. That’s a surprise as the U.S. tech giant has been carving out a growing presence in German soccer. It bought access to about a dozen matches for the Bundesliga’s restart last month, and last year acquired rights to show some European Champions League soccer games in Germany, chiseling away at Sky’s dominance of the coveted competition that features top clubs including Real Madrid and Liverpool.

While the Bundesliga was the first major competition to return in mid-May, the lower proceeds reflect the risks linked to live contact sports while coronavirus is still widespread. Fans remain banned from arenas and there’s concern that a second wave of infections could once again put an end to matches.

Netflix of Sports

ProSiebenSat.1 Media SE acquired rights to nine matches a season to be shown on free TV, including the league’s opening game and the relegation matches between the first and second division, the broadcaster said Monday.

The outcome is good news for DAZN, which aims to be the so-called Netflix of sports and is already sub-licensing some Champions League matches from Sky in Germany.

DAZN, whose service can be canceled monthly, was hit when the pandemic halted sports around the world earlier this year. Sky usually locks customers into longer-term contracts.

Sky’s early bet on the rising popularity of broadcast soccer -- it’s held live Bundesliga rights for more than a decade now -- has paid off by making it Germany’s dominant pay-TV provider. The last time it lost the rights was in 2005, causing the company’s shares to collapse as much as 43% in one day.

©2020 Bloomberg L.P.

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