DAZN revives pay-per-view model in unexpected blow to boxing fans

Boxing is perhaps the most expensive sport for fans in the U.S., because there’s virtually no free component and the fights that are free are by and large the less attractive matches.

If you are a hard-core, you have to subscribe to the following:

• ESPN+, to watch the fights that are streamed live on there, as well as to be able to buy ESPN Pay-Per-View fights.

• Showtime, to be able to get the premium network’s usually quality offerings.

• DAZN, to be able to stream its many fights a year.

You need to subscribe to either cable or satellite television as well as have a fairly high-speed internet connection. There’s no putting an antenna on the roof and some rabbit ears near the TV and watching the best fight the best.

When you have guys like Canelo Alvarez making $50 million or more a fight, the money has to come from somewhere.

It’s why when DAZN started its U.S. operation on Sept. 22, 2018, with a card headlined by then-heavyweight champion Anthony Joshua against Alexander Povetkin by lauding the moment as the end of pay-per-view, it was laughable.

There was no way DAZN’s subscription plan was going to work given the economics in boxing, and now DAZN is finally admitting it.

Lost in the news that Alvarez signed to fight Dmitry Bivol last week on May 7 for the WBA light heavyweight title was the news that it would be on pay-per-view on DAZN.

If you’re a current DAZN subscriber at $99.99 a year like I am, it will cost you $59.99 to watch Alvarez-Bivol. For those who aren’t DAZN subscribers, it will be $79.99. The yearly subscription to DAZN will remain at $99.99 until May, when it will go up for new subscribers to $149.99.

This is a decidedly less great value than the $99.99 deal was, and they’re going to have to load up the undercards of those fights and put together good bouts. Because before, you were getting Alvarez fights and everything else DAZN offered for $99.99.

KASHIWA, JAPAN - MARCH 05:  A general view of the DAZN booth prior to the J.League J1 match between Kashiwa Reysol and Gamba Osaka at Hitachi Kashiwa Soccer Stadium on March 5, 2017 in Kashiwa, Chiba, Japan.  (Photo by Hiroki Watanabe - JL/Getty Images for DAZN)
DAZN is pivoting to a pay-per-vew model after launching in 2018 as a "PPV killer." (Photo by Hiroki Watanabe - JL/Getty Images for DAZN)

Let’s assume that DAZN going forward will have four pay-per-views per year, with guys like Joshua and Gennadiy Golovkin, among others, on their roster.

If you’re a current subscriber, you’ll have to pony up $339.95 for DAZN for one year. That’s $59.99 for four pay-per-views and $99.99 for the annual fee. If you are a boxing fan and make the mistake of not subscribing to DAZN until May, you’ll pay an extra $50 and the cost goes up to $389.95 a year. That’s a lot of money.

Let’s assume you get ESPN+ at $69.99 a year and you’ll also buy some of its pay-per-views. They tend to have less pay-per-views, so let’s say two a year at $74.99. So to add ESPN+ with DAZN, it’s another $219.97. So adding ESPN+’s total yearly price to DAZN’s $339.95, you’re up to $559.92.

Let’s take Showtime at roughly $12 a month because subscription costs vary, so that’s $144 for the year. Showtime usually has at least two pay-per-views at $74.99 (or more) a year and the boxing cost at Showtime jumps to $293.98. And that’s not even counting Jake Paul PPV fights on Showtime which, if you want to see those, will set you back another $100 or so.

So adding the cost of Showtime to the combined price of $559.92 for DAZN and ESPN+ and we’re up to $853.90.

Fox has been doing almost exclusively pay-per-views recently. Let’s say they do four at $74.99, we’re adding another $299.96 to the $853.90 and we’re up to $1,153.86.

They’ll be a few independent pay-per-views per year and to round them off, let’s say they total $150 for three cards. That leaves us at $1303.86 and doesn’t count our cable or satellite subscription or our internet connection.

DAZN used to be the cheapest and best option, but out of that $1,303.86, it’s accounting for about 26.1 percent of our cost. And that overlooks the fact you get many other entertainment options on ESPN+, Showtime and Fox that you don’t get on DAZN.

So what once was the best deal in sports is certainly a lot less consumer friendly.

What’s bad about that is that the max cost for NFL Sunday Ticket in 2021 was $395.99 and you get all of the games. Boxing is nearly a thousand dollars more expensive in the U.S. than the most popular sport in the country.

That makes no sense.

But DAZN is the biggest offender here at this point. Pay-per-view is not dead. DAZN just applied CPR and gave it new life.