(Bloomberg) — DAZN Group Ltd., the sports-streaming service backed by billionaire Len Blavatnik, has revived talks to raise new funding after spending heavily on its global expansion, people with knowledge of the matter said.
The U.K.-based company is speaking with advisers about options including a stock-market listing or divestment of assets, according to the people, who asked not to be identified because the information is private. It is seeking to raise as much as $1 billion, one of the people said.
DAZN is in the early stages of considering an initial public offering, the people said. It’s also held talks about going public through a deal with a so-called special purpose acquisition company, or SPAC, and has discussed selling a stake in its Japanese business, one of the people said.
SPACs, which raise money on the public markets in order to make a purchase within a set period of time, have flooded the market this year. Prominent financiers including former Wall Street dealmaker Michael Klein and activist investors Bill Ackman and Jeff Smith have all launched such vehicles in 2020 as firms seek to go public without the risks of an IPO.
DAZN’s expansion has been supported by Blavatnik, who is worth $33 billion, according to the Bloomberg Billionaires Index. The billionaire’s fortune has grown this year, thanks in part to the IPO of Warner Music Group Corp., which he bought in 2011.
Deliberations are at an early stage, and DAZN hasn’t decided which path to pursue, the people said. A representative for DAZN said the company has no comment.
DAZN hired an adviser to help it raise at least $500 million last year only to shelve the plans when the coronavirus crisis struck and forced the suspension of sports around the world. Unlike major broadcasters such as Sky, which usually lock customers into longer-term contracts, DAZN’s service can be canceled monthly, leaving it more exposed to the impact of a sudden shutdown in sport.
DAZN’s acting chief executive officer, James Rushton, told staff this month the company is on track to return to its pre-Covid subscriber levels by the fourth quarter, one of the people said.
Pronounced “da zone,” DAZN was launched in 2016 and has spent quickly to acquire the rights to broadcast a range of sports in nine countries, including the U.S. DAZN wants to build a presence in 200 markets, according to its website, and in June increased its share of premium soccer broadcasting rights in Germany.
At the same time, it has been evaluating markets in which it wants to cut back. It is seeking an exit from its UEFA Champions League soccer service in Asia and has pulled its coverage of Italian Serie A soccer games from its Brazilian platform, Bloomberg News reported in June. It has also been in discussions to sell a stake in Goal.com.
Underinvestment in content rights is just as common as overspending, according to Richard Broughton, research director at media consultancy Ampere Analysis Ltd. Premium sports and movie services thinking about the long-term prize may need to adopt a “go big or go home” mentality, he said.
“DAZN in particular appears to be retrenching around core markets, pulling out of its southeast Asia Champions League deal in recent months — demonstrating that as it thinks about new funding, it is aware of the challenges of underinvestment,” Broughton said.