By Elvira Pollina and Douglas Busvine
MILAN (Reuters) - DAZN, the online sports broadcaster which this year snatched the rights to screen Italy's top-flight soccer league from Sky, is considering the possibility of going public as it chases further growth, its joint chief executive said.
Owned by billionaire Len Blavatnik's Access Industries, DAZN, dubbed the Netflix of Sports, debuted in Germany and Japan in 2016, and in December announced the launch of its live and on-demand sports streaming service in 200 countries.
The group's flat-rate deals to view premium sports via internet-enabled smart TVs have undercut pricier pay TV packages offered by established broadcasters.
However, its early losses were sizable as it splurged on broadcast rights, and it was hit hard by the coronavirus pandemic, which saw many live sporting events cancelled.
"If circumstances were right, I can see us tapping the public capital markets or the private capital markets over the next few years,” co-CEO James Rushton told Reuters in an interview, when asked about the possibility of an initial public offering.
While Bloomberg reported last year that the company was considering an IPO as part of up to $1 billion in fundraising, citing sources, DAZN executives had not previously commented publicly on the prospect.
A flotation would make DAZN the first global sports streaming company to be listed.
The firm's relationship with Access means going into the public markets is not a necessity, said Rushton.
However, "can you see Access wanting to gain further support from someone else? Yes, of course you can – that would be a natural thing to do," he added.
Rushton, promoted to his role in January, says despite previous losses the company is approaching a tipping point as customer growth and its efficient technology platform work in its favour.
The group, which entered the Italian market in 2018, in March secured the rights to screen all Serie A matches over the next three seasons with a bid of 2.52 billion euros ($3 billion), beating out pay-TV player Sky, which is owned by Comcast.
English Premier League domestic rights might be the next target. "Once the tender comes out, we’ll review it,” said Rushton.
"The global platform gives... us the opportunity to be agile and launch or supersize into new markets quite quickly," he added, saying DAZN would evaluate opportunities in Britain, France, Spain and Asia as they come up.
The coronavirus pandemic challenged DAZN's operating model, which gives users freedom to cancel their subscriptions at short notice, as sports leagues were forced to temporarily suspend tournaments.
Rushton said the business had withstood the shock. Now, DAZN is diversifying its revenue base and expects to generate more than $100 million in advertising revenue this year, he said. It also plans to add a pay-per-view option.
DAZN does not need to dramatically change the number of soccer subscribers in Italy to make its Serie A investment pay off, Rushton said. Industry sources estimate Sky and DAZN's total soccer subscriber base in Italy at 3.5-4 million.
This summer DAZN will consider raising its 9.99 euro monthly fee in Italy, as it has done elsewhere, Rushton said. It charges 11.99 euros in Germany.
($1 = 0.8422 euros)
(Reporting by Elvira Pollina and Douglas Busvine; Editing by Jan Harvey)