Billionaire Len Blavatnik’s sports streaming service DAZN lost $2.3 billion in 2021.

(Bloomberg) — Losses at DAZN Group Ltd., the sports streaming platform backed by billionaire Len Blavatnik, surged 79% to $2.3 billion in 2021 as it invested money in premium soccer rights.

Rights costs at the London-based company, which is pronounced “yes zone,” rose to $1.9 billion in 2021 from $1.2 billion a year earlier, according to accounts the company shared with Bloomberg. In an interview, CEO Shay Segev pointed to a “big investment” that year to acquire the Italian and German soccer rights.

Those expenses outpaced revenue, which rose 79% to $1.56 billion in 2021 as DAZN signed up new subscribers, with most sales coming from Europe, the Middle East and Africa. After a phase of attracting customers with low monthly prices, DAZN doubled them to 30 euros in Germany last year and recently increased them in Italy. It introduces bundles for various sports packages and plans to add a free service later this year.

Revenues rose to $2.3 billion in 2022, the company announced.

Segev said that while plans for an initial public offering are currently on hold due to tough global capital markets, it could happen in the next two or three years. DAZN would also welcome strategic investors, he added.

“I don’t really have any preference, I would just think that it actually makes sense for this to become a public company,” Segev said. “The Netflix story, the Amazon story — I think DAZN is going there, too.”

The venture has lost more than $6 billion since the brand was launched in 2016, according to Bloomberg calculations based on documents from British companies, underscoring the difficulty of selling enough subscriptions to recoup the huge investments needed to land attractive sports rights like Spain’s La Liga soccer league. Sports rights often last only a few years, yet are sold at competitive and expensive local auctions, unlike many other entertainment properties.

In an effort to increase and diversify revenue, DAZN last year announced plans for a sports betting partnership with Pragmatic Group, a betting and gaming technology company.

Segev was briefly CEO of Entain Plc, one of Europe’s largest gambling operators, before joining DAZN in late 2021. He has since hired Entain’s chief technology officer Sandeep Tiku and BT Group Plc’s Pete Oliver as CEO marketing. Chief Financial Officer Darren Waterman joins after six years as International CFO for Amazon Prime Video.

Blavatnik agreed to recapitalize DAZN in 2021, which resulted in its net debt falling to $14.3 million at the end of the year from $1.3 billion a year earlier.

DAZN was formerly known as Perform Group Plc, a UK-listed company that was acquired by Blavatnikov’s Access Industries in 2014, then restructured and rebranded. Blavatnik has a net worth of $37.9 billion, according to the Bloomberg Billionaires Index.

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