“As a new entrant into the U.S. landscape, we’re growing our brand awareness among a young, tech-savvy demographic of sports fan,” said Joe Markowski, DAZN’s North America executive vice president. “These are the new superstars of the modern era, and we can’t ignore that. This is the social media age, and there is huge fan interest in this fight, and they command a huge digital following.”
“We know how to generate a buzz,” KSI added.
Last year, Paul and KSI boxed to a draw in an amateur bout broadcast on YouTube that drew 1.1 million viewers at a cost of $10 each. (Perhaps just as many or more people also watched a pirated stream of the fight.) For the rematch, KSI’s manager, Liam Chivers, said he spoke with platforms ranging from ESPN+ to Facebook to Vimeo before deciding DAZN was the best fit. DAZN declined to disclose the financial terms of the deal.
To purchase the Paul-KSI fight, viewers will have to buy a monthly subscription to DAZN for $20 or a yearly pass that costs $100. The trick for the network will be to convert those fans into long-term subscribers.
“We don’t see much crossover between this demographic and our existing subscriber base, so it’s a whole new demographic,” Markowski said. “And we’ll have a month, at least, with every new subscriber to serve them with our wider portfolio.”
DAZN is based in the United Kingdom and available in nine countries. It broadcasts English Premier League and NFL games in Canada, the NFL in Germany and the leading domestic baseball and soccer leagues in Japan. The network’s global chairman is former ESPN president John Skipper, and it continues to seek larger inroads in the United States, where it has focused mostly on combat sports, signing Canelo Alvarez and Gennady Golovkin to multimillion dollar contracts. It also has a deal with Major League Baseball for a nightly whip-around highlights show.
Paul said his YouTube audience is 50 percent men ages 18 to 24, which Markowski said could be an asset as DAZN looks to expand into more mainstream sports and leagues in the United States.
“I think it helps us go to them and say we’re innovative and we’ve got the younger audience you’re looking for,” he said.
DAZN this fall is scheduled to broadcast a Golovkin fight and a rematch between Anthony Ruiz and Anthony Joshua, and it is expected to announce an Alvarez fight as well. Adding the Paul-KSI fight, network executives hope, will help reduce the month-to-month churn among subscribers.
For the November bout, KSI and Paul have been certified to fight professionally by the California State Athletic Commission, which means they will not wear headgear as they did in their first fight. Neither is particularly well-known for athletic feats. KSI raps and performs on his YouTube channel; Paul rose to fame as a slapstick-style video blogger who has occasionally courted controversy.
But both said they are taking the fight seriously.
“Absolutely. I’m a real boxer,” Paul said. “I’ve done it for a year and a half now, so definitely have some skills. This isn’t just some YouTubers with beef trying to fight. It’s a real fight.”