John Skipper's 'Golden' moment
Early in the afternoon on Oct. 2, John Skipper sat in Golden Boy’s Los Angeles office to pitch the group on DAZN, a subscription-based video streaming service that launched in the United States earlier this year.
Golden Boy Promotions’ media rights deals were up, and DAZN’s executive chairman knew their details intimately. After all, he was still ESPN’s president when he struck a small Golden Boy deal nearly two years earlier. With most U.S. rights tied up for the next several years, Skipper saw Golden Boy — and its hugely popular fighter Canelo Alvarez — as the best way to grow DAZN’s nascent over-the-top business in the U.S. Alvarez had fought on HBO but was needing a new home after the network decided to get out of the boxing business.
During the meeting with David Tetreault, Golden Boy executive vice president, Skipper made it clear that any deal had to be exclusive. DAZN is a subscription service that costs $9.99 per month. Skipper told Tetreault that he was not interested in any kind of carved-out streaming package.
DAZN was interested in Golden Boy. The question was whether Golden Boy wanted to put its rights on DAZN.
Impressed with DAZN’s streaming operations in several international markets, including Italy and Japan, and convinced that DAZN’s owner Perform Group could afford the rights, Tetreault told Skipper that Golden Boy was open to selling its rights to DAZN.
Skipper felt energized by the two-and-a-half-hour meeting. He left Golden Boy’s office to take a plane back to New York City where he planned to meet with Perform executives and figure out how to craft DAZN’s bid.
Skipper had heard that other media companies were angling for Golden Boy’s rights. Boxing has seen a rebirth on U.S. television over the past few years, and several media companies were taking a long look at Golden Boy. ESPN and Turner wanted content for their own streaming services, ESPN+ and B/R Live. Showtime wanted to build out its pay-per-view business.
All of this weighed on Skipper’s mind as he sat in a lounge at LAX waiting for a flight back home to New York City. He believed DAZN could finalize a deal and wanted to do it quickly before negotiations with competitors became serious.
DAZN is a new company that is not well known in the U.S. Skipper felt that his advantage came down to being in the room. He was not going to give up that advantage. He pulled out his phone and called Tetreault, Golden Boy President Eric Gomez and Golden Boy Chairman and CEO Oscar De La Hoya and said, “I’m not going anywhere. I’ll be back in the office tomorrow.”
Wearing the same outfit as the day before, Skipper arrived back at Golden Boy’s offices the next day and immediately signed a non-disclosure agreement so he could see what Alvarez earns and figure out a price.
The two sides set up a short exclusive negotiating period, and Golden Boy agreed that it would not shop DAZN’s deal to other media companies with the hope of creating a bidding war.
Negotiations stretched throughout the week. Perform’s head of rights, Ed Breeze, and its head of legal, Christian Gutteridge, flew to Los Angeles to join in the negotiations. Back at Perform Group’s London headquarters, Perform Group CEO Simon Denyer, DAZN CRO James Rushton and DAZN Executive VP of Finance Paul Morton ran models and tried to figure out a bid.
Skipper spent the week at the Beverly Wilshire hotel. Originally, he had prepared for a short trip, so he had a bag with two pairs of trousers. Golden Boy executives told him where to go on Rodeo Drive to buy underwear and socks.
On Oct. 5, three days after Skipper’s first meeting, the two sides had a handshake deal that would see DAZN pay $365 million to stream Alvarez’s next 11 fights, starting with the Dec. 15 Alvarez-Rocky Fielding match at Madison Square Garden. The deal includes other live fights and additional boxing content as well.
The Alvarez fights fit with DAZN’s strategy to disrupt the pay-per-view business. People who paid $85 for a PPV fight are good candidates to pay $9.99 per month for DAZN, Denyer figured. Two Alvarez pay-per-view fights ($170) in a year would cost more than an annual fee for DAZN ($120). Recent Alvarez PPV bouts on HBO have each attracted more than 1 million buys.
By Monday morning, the lawyers took over. The two sides started papering the deal Oct. 8 and signed it Oct. 11 in Golden Boy’s office.