While John Skipper, the executive chairman of the DAZN Group, shies away from comparing the sports media start-up to streaming service behemoth Netflix, his vision for the company’s future is no less ambitious. In an interview earlier this week with Bloomberg Businessweek’s Ira Boudway, the former President of ESPN outlined his vision to become an indispensable part of sports fans’ entertainment budget, a vision that will see the company competing with many of the biggest media companies in the world.
Skipper began his tenure at ESPN, the US’s most-watched cable sports network, in 1997 as the senior vice president and general manager of ESPN The Magazine, eventually taking the company’s helm in 2012. Under his leadership, ESPN signed several significant long-term agreements, both sporting and with sponsors, and in 2017 Forbes listed the company as the world’s second most valuable brand in sports with an estimated value of $15.8 billion. During his time, ESPN, and Skipper in particular, also gained a reputation for inclusivity that was demonstrated by a sports media study last year, which credited both with significantly increasing the representation of women and people of color in the industry.
A live sport subscription streaming service, DAZN started in Germany and Japan back in 2016, and now also operates in Canada, Italy and the US, with plans to launch in Spain and Brazil later this year. Backed by Len Blavatnik, the Ukrainian-born media investor whose portfolio includes Warner Music Group, DAZN has committed to spending at least $2 billion in the US across baseball and boxing. And indeed, the company has already signed a three-year, $300 million agreement with MLB for a nightly show, and Skipper has recently secured the richest athlete contract in sports history with Mexican boxer Canelo Alvarez, $365 million for the rights to broadcast his next 11 fights.
“I loved being the president of ESPN. But the change has been good to me,” Skipper revealed. And he went on to say, “If I have gained some perspective from years of working in sports, and years of living, it is that you better do things that you enjoy, and you better do them for positive reasons.”