Blavat­nik splits Per­form Group to fund ‘Net­flix of sport’

The Sunday Telegraph - Money & Business - - Business - By Christo­pher Wil­liams

THE bil­lion­aire Sir Len Blavat­nik is plot­ting to split his sports me­dia em­pire in two and sell half of it to help fi­nance his costly at­tempt to cre­ate the “Net­flix of sport”.

Per­form Group, which owns the live stream­ing ser­vice DAZN and a col­lec­tion of sports rights, pro­duc­tion and data busi­nesses, is work­ing with bankers from UBS on the plans, City sources re­vealed.

Sir Len, a Bri­tish and Amer­i­can ci­ti­zen who was born in Ukraine, has pumped hun­dreds of mil­lions of pounds into DAZN. It is rapidly con­sum­ing cash as it buys rights to foot­ball, such as Ja­pan’s J. League, and other sports around the world.

Lon­don-based Per­form, which Sir Len’s hold­ing com­pany Ac­cess In­dus­tries took pri­vate in a £700m buy-out four years ago, an­nounced a fort­night ago that it would re­or­gan­ise it­self to sep­a­rate DAZN and con­sumer web­sites such as from its whole­sale op­er­a­tions. They in­clude video feeds for gam­bling op­er­a­tors and Opta, the data ser­vice used by foot­ball coaches to track player per­for­mance.

The com­pany is to be re­named DAZN Group, with the whole­sale busi­ness held un­der an in­de­pen­dent gov­er­nance struc­ture as Per­form Con­tent. This unit is due to be spun off in a sale to new own­ers. “The money raised will help fund the growth of DAZN,” said a source fa­mil­iar with the plans.

B2B busi­ness have pre­vi­ously been Per­form Group’s big­gest sales en­gine. Per­form Con­tent re­ported rev­enues of £278m last year out of a to­tal turnover of £439m.

New deals to dis­trib­ute in­ter­na­tional broad­cast­ing rights for sports bod­ies such as the NFL boosted Per­form Con­tent sales by £81m. Such strate­gi­cally valu­able part­ner­ships are to be re­tained as part of DAZN Group.

Last year, as DAZN launched its sub­scrip­tion stream­ing ser­vice in a string of new mar­kets, sales rock­eted from less than £9m to more than £90m.

Last month it made its de­but in the US, the world’s big­gest pay-tv mar­ket, by broad­cast­ing heavy­weight box­ing clash be­tween An­thony Joshua and Alexan­der Povetkin. DAZN also tar­gets sub­scribers in Ger­many, Aus­tria, Switzer­land, Ja­pan, Canada and Italy. It has so far avoided the UK on an assess­ment that sports rights are too ex­pen­sive.

DAZN’S ex­pan­sion has come at a steep cost, how­ever. At the end of last year it had com­mit­ted £2.6bn to sports rights and by March this year Sir Len had lent the ven­ture £542m.

Sup­port­ers of J. League team Shimizu S-pulse cheer on their side. Stream­ing firm DAZN have se­cured a 10-year, $2bn (£1.5bn) deal to broad­cast Ja­panese foot­ball

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