DAZN Group agrees sale of Perform Content to help fund growth of OTT product
By Simon Ward
DAZN Group, the international digital sports media group, has agreed a deal to sell a majority stake in its business-to-business data and betting arm Perform Content, amid reports that it is itself being lined up for a possible float on the London Stock Exchange.
It was announced today that an agreement has been reached between DAZN and US private equity firm Vista Equity Partners for the latter to acquire Europe-based Perform, which is to be combined with Stats, the USA-based company acquired by Vista in 2014.
DAZN Group, which is headed up by billionaire Len Blavatnik confirmed earlier this month that, as part of a strategic review announced last October, it was in talks with an interested party, reported to be Vista, to sell the data and betting business.
The sale will help fund further expansion of the now core consumer-facing subscription over-the-top service DAZN, which is now available in eight markets, and is set for a full launch in Brazil in due course.
The value of the deal has not been disclosed, but DAZN Group is receiving a combination of cash and a “significant minority stake” in the new STATS-Perform business.
It is subject to closing conditions and regulatory approval, but is expected to close in the second half of this year.
The tie-up combines the assets of two leading sports data companies in STATS and Perform, which services rights-holders, leagues, media and gaming partners via its Opta, RunningBall and Watch&Bet services, with the aim of enhancing the viewing experience of fans around the worldwide.
Late last week, Perform Content entered a partnership with North America’s Major League Baseball to become the league’s authorised data distributor to US betting operators.
Carl Mergele, the chief executive of STATS, said today: “Bringing Perform into the fold will create the most advanced artificial intelligence company in sports, providing deeper, more robust data and insights, which is essential to our global partners. Not only will we be able to improve our offerings to existing customers, we now have the opportunity to expand our presence in global markets where Perform has paved inroads for years as a leader in digital sports content.”
Simon Denyer, the chief executive of DAZN Group, added: “It’s great to welcome a new era for all our content products, B2B partners, and Perform colleagues. Over 12 years we created a leading global portfolio of content and clients, but the combination of STATS and Perform takes the service to a new level of potential for everyone. While we will continue as an active minority shareholder in the new business, this deal also allows the group to focus on DAZN, into which we will invest all net proceeds from the deal.”
In a report yesterday, the UK’s Mail on Sunday newspaper claimed that the sale of Perform Content was likely to be a precursor to a London stock market listing for DAZN Group later this year or in 2020.
The business, including Perform Content, is currently valued at around £3 billion ($3.9 billion).
It is claimed that plans for a float have been discussed internally, but are still at an early stage. Other options are said to include a flotation in USA where an OTT service was rolled out last year, and a sale to a major technology company if a lucrative offer is received.
DAZN Group and its parent company, Blavatnik’s Access Industries, have declined to comment on the report.
It is reported that a flotation would enable DAZN to tap equity markets and build up its resources to compete more effectively for attractive sports rights.
The strategic review at DAZN Group followed a rebrand last September with the name of the parent company changing from Perform to DAZN Group housing two distinct brands in the consumer-facing DAZN and the B2B-focused Perform Content.
The DAZN OTT service was launched by Perform in Japan, Germany, Austria and Switzerland in 2016, and expanded to Canada in 2017, to Italy and USA in the second half of last year and to Spain earlier this year.
There is a target to be in 20 countries in 2020, but, although headquartered in London, DAZN has yet to launch a similar service in the UK where the sports rights market is presently dominated by pay-TV operators Sky and BT Sport.
Under its new agreement with MLB, Perform will supply the official real-time betting data feed in USA and enable regulated sports betting operators to create new engagement opportunities.
The data feed will complement Perform-collected data from other major sports leagues such as soccer’s Premier League in England and LaLiga in Spain, which both use the company's RunningBall fast data service.
Kenny Gersh, MLB’s executive vice-president of gaming and new ventures, said: “It’s an important development for us to partner with Perform as the second Authorised MLB Data Distributor in the US for sports betting operators. Multiple distributors of our rich, reliable, low latency data will help drive competition and innovation in the sports betting landscape, providing MLB fans with the best gaming experiences possible.”
In February, MLB signed a wide-ranging multi-year deal with Sportradar, the sports data intelligence company, including media and gaming rights at both international and domestic level, starting with the 2019 season.
Betting is now permitted in eight of the 50 US states after laws were changed in response to last May’s Supreme Court ruling that the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act of 1992, which largely prohibited sports betting outside Nevada, was not consistent with the constitution.
Since this ruling, MLB has been among the major sports leagues looking to capitalise, particularly in the betting sponsorship sphere, last November signing up MGM Resorts, the casino and resort group, as its official gaming sponsor and official entertainment partner.
MGM Resorts also served as the title sponsor of the opening series games between the Oakland Athletics and the Seattle Mariners in Tokyo last month.