Sports Streamer DAZN Acquires $4.3 Billion in Re-Capitalization

DAZN Group, the corporate parent to its branded sports entertainment streaming platform, announced new financing arrangements with Access Industries, its principal shareholder, valued in excess of $4.3 billion.

DAZN, which is led by former Disney+ senior executive Kevin Mayer, in 2021 became the primary broadcaster of Serie A soccer in Italy, acquired rights to LaLiga in Spain, launched substantial coverage of the Bundesliga in Germany, struck a five-year global boxing deal with Matchroom Boxing and a four-year global deal with UEFA Women’s soccer Champions League.

DAZN ended last year with a reported 11 million subscribers, which includes the 5 million households associated with the U.K.’s BT Sport, which the company acquired for $800 million last month.

This M&A progress paved the way for Access Industries to recapitalize the business last December. As part of this recapitalization, Access Industries acquired new DAZN shares while converting existing preference shares and retiring shareholder loans.

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This left DAZN without debt at the end of 2021. Access has additionally subscribed for a further $250 million of new shares post-recapitalization.

“This backing by Access represents a strong vote of confidence in DAZN’s strategy, progress and future growth opportunities,” Kevin Mayer, chairman of the board o DAZN Group, said in a statement. “We are also grateful for the continued support of Dentsu, our second largest shareholder.”

Mayer, who helped launch Disney’s SVOD platform Disney+, joined DAZN after a short stint at Chinese-owned social media platform TikTok. Mayer is attempting to bridge the gap between live sports and streaming video as the transformation of how fans engage with sports evolves.

“We are expecting another exciting year in 2022 as our platform diversifies into the true global destination for sports fans,” Mayer said.

The announcement comes on the heels of significant global momentum at DAZN, including the recent win of domestic LaLiga rights in Spain, being named Apple TV App of the Year for 2021 and reaching a record-breaking number of consumers across the world with its live sports and original programming. As 2022 continues, DAZN expects to move forward with recreational betting, gaming, e-commerce, non-fungible tokens (NFTs), and related tech advances in the viewing experience.

Discovery CEO Eyes HBO Max Sub Additions; Ex-Disney Streaming Boss Kevin Mayer Consulting

With Discovery Inc.’s $43 billion acquisition of WarnerMedia expected to be approved in 2022, Discovery CEO David Zaslav has great expectations for the pending Warner Bros. Discovery company he will oversee.

Speaking on the company’s Nov. 3 fiscal call, Zaslav said that less than half of the company’s Discovery+ U.S. subscribers also pay for HBO Max — suggesting room for growth across both platforms after the merger.

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“Assessing the overlap in respective subscriber bases, at least here in the U.S., we believe … [that] with the right packaging, [Max] provides a real opportunity to broaden the base of our combined offering,” Zaslav said. “And with our global appeal, infrastructure and local market capabilities, our international roadmap is very much still untapped and provides meaningful upside over the coming years.”

Discovery ended the third quarter (Sept. 30) with 20 million SVOD subscribers, led by Discovery+. The company doesn’t breakout separate subscriber data for its over-the-top video platforms, which include Golf TV, Eurosport and Global Cycling Network, among others.

HBO and HBO Max ended the quarter with a combined 69 million subscribers worldwide, including 45.2 million in the United States. WarnerMedia also does not publicly break out separate HBO and Max subscriber base data.

Kevin Mayer

Zaslav said that Kevin Mayer, the former boss of Disney’s direct-to-consumer operations and key driver of the Disney+ launch in 2019, is consulting with him on the pending Warner Bros. Discovery joint venture.

Mayer left Disney to briefly lead TikTok as CEO before departing when the social media platform became embroiled in a political spat with former President Trump.

When asked if Mayer would assume a permanent position on the pending Warner Bros. Discovery company, Zaslav said the former Disney executive has a lot of projects on his plate.

“[Mayer’s] a great entrepreneur and he’s got a number of really exciting things he is doing and working on,” Zaslav said. “This is one of them.”

Ex-Disney+ Executive Kevin Mayer Named Chairman of DAZN Streaming Platform

Kevin Mayer, the former Disney executive who helped launch Disney+, and then departed to briefly head social media platform TikTok, has been named chairman of DAZN, a boxing-themed SVOD service.

Mayer replaces John Skipper, who will transition to Meadowlark Media, a DAZN subsidiary focused on developing original programming.

“As chairman, I’m looking forward to partnering with the management team and my fellow directors to help DAZN build on its impressive track record of success in developing a truly global sports platform,” Mayer said in a statement. “I’ve been impressed with DAZN’s ambitions and ability to quickly grow from a new entrant to an important player in key markets throughout the world. I look forward to guiding DAZN’s strategic development into its next chapter.”

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Mayer was previously chairman of Direct-to-Consumer and International at The Walt Disney Company. There, he launched and ran the company’s streaming businesses, including Disney+, Hulu, ESPN+ and Hotstar, as well as overseeing Disney’s global advertising sales, content sales, channels sales and international operations. Prior to that role, Mayer served as Disney’s chief strategy officer, leading the acquisitions of Pixar, Marvel, Lucasfilm, 21st Century Fox and BamTech.

Disney Streaming Boss Kevin Mayer Jumps to China’s TikTok as CEO

In a surprise move, Kevin Mayer, chairman of Disney’s direct-to-consumer & International unit, is leaving to become COO of the corporate parent of Chinese-owned social media platform TikTok, effective June 1.

Mayer, who has spent 25 years at Disney, will report directly to Yiming Zhang, founder/CEO of ByteDance. He will be charged with driving the global development at ByteDance, as well as overseeing corporate functions, including corporate development, sales, marketing, public affairs, security, moderation, and legal.

In his role as COO, Mayer will lead music, gaming, Helo, emerging businesses, and will also serve as CEO of TikTok, leading the rapidly growing platform as it continues to build its global community of creators, users, and brands.

“Kevin’s wealth of experience building successful global businesses makes him an outstanding fit for our mission of inspiring creativity for users globally,” Zhang said in a statement.

As chairman of Disney’s revamped home entertainment unit, consumer products and international business, Mayer oversaw rollout of Disney+, the company’s flagship subscription streaming video service. Additionally, Mayer led the company’s other direct-to-consumer businesses, including Hulu, ESPN+, and India’s Hotstar, as well as overseeing Disney’s international operations, global ad sales, and global content sales.

“Like everyone else, I’ve been impressed watching [ByteDance] build something incredibly rare in TikTok — a creative, positive online global community,” Mayer said.

The executive said he is grateful to Bob Iger for his visionary leadership and mentorship over many years, and Bob Chapek, whom Mayer said he greatly admires.

Alex Zhu, the current president of TikTok, will transition to ByteDance VP of product and strategy, where he will focus on his primary passion overseeing strategy and product design.

Kelly Zhang and Lidong Zhang will continue to lead the business as CEO and Chairman of ByteDance China, respectively, reporting to Yiming Zhang, as ByteDance’s global CEO. They manage a range of products, including Douyin, Toutiao, and Xigua, in addition to their duties leading the business and operational teams in China.

In the management restructuring, TikTok said its national and regional management leaders would remain in their roles with their current responsibilities, reporting to Mayer.

Disney+ French Launch Delayed to April 7

The Walt Disney Co. March 21 confirmed it is delaying the previously planned March 24 launch of Disney+ subscription streaming video service in France to April 7. The SVOD service will bow as scheduled in other European countries on March 24.

The move came after the CEO of French telecom Orange — one of the country’s largest ISPs — suggested Disney delay the launch. The company is also joining Netflix, Amazon, YouTube reducing streaming speeds 25% to limit the service’s impact on local and national high-speed networks.

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In France, deaths related to the virus have risen to 562, according to the French Health Ministry. There are more than 14,400 infections, with 6,172 in hospitals and 1,525 of them in intensive care.

“In line with Disney’s longstanding commitment to act responsibly, we are responding to the request of European Commissioner for Internal Market Thierry Breton to work together to ensure the smooth functioning of the broadband infrastructure,” Kevin Mayer, chairman of Direct-to-Consumer & International at Disney, said in a statement. “In anticipation of high consumer demand for Disney+, we are proactively instituting measures to lower our overall bandwidth utilization by at least 25% in all of the markets launching Disney+ on March 24.”

Breton earlier in the week had called on streaming platforms, telecom operators and Internet users having a joint responsibility during the pandemic that has infected more than 300,000 people globally and 13,000 deaths.

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“[We need] to take steps to ensure the smooth functioning of the Internet during the battle against the virus propagation,” Breton said.

Disney+ Finding Tech Issues at Launch

Disney’s high-profile Nov. 12 launch of a branded subscription streaming service in the United States ran into technical issues out of the gate.

There were reportedly more than 7,000 connection problems cited on the site before 7:30a.m. ET. The initial glitches underscore the differences between test launches in Holland and widespread access in the U.S.

On the service’s help link, Disney said the consumer demand for Disney+ had exceeded expectations.

“We are working to quickly resolve the current user issue. We appreciate your patience,” Disney said in a post.

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“There are always technology glitches,” Kevin Mayer, chairman of Disney’s direct-to-consumer streaming business, told a media event last week. “You can always improve the technical performance of any service like this and we’ll continue to do so. We haven’t solved everything by any means.”

Regardless, Disney said Disney+ tests in Holland had been successful.

“We wanted to have a sufficient number of users so that we could see how the app performed, what technology glitches might exist,” Mayer said.

Disney said it has teams monitoring the service 24/7 to iron out any issues on the $6.99 monthly platform.

Janice Marinelli Leaving The Walt Disney Company

In a surprise move, Janice Marinelli July 16 announced that she will step down from her role as president of Global Content Sales & Distribution for The Walt Disney Company’s Direct-to-Consumer & International (DTCI) segment, ending a 34-year career at the media giant.

Marinelli previously headed Disney’s home entertainment operations, which she continued to oversee in her latest role, which she assumed in December 2018.

Industry sources had anticipated a big announcement from Disney on July 15, with speculation that Marinelli on that date would announce the new home entertainment team behind both Disney and 20th Century Fox product. Longtime Fox home entertainment chief Mike Dunn left shortly after the March 20 completion of the merger, while James Finn, one of the division’s two top marketers, announced his departure earlier this month. Julia Howe, the other top home entertainment marketing executive, is still there, sources said.

“It has been an honor to work for this company and a privilege to work with so many outstanding professionals,” Marinelli said in a statement. “I’ve observed many changes in our industry over the years, and it is changing at a speed never seen before. While I have been considering this decision for some time, I was committed to seeing our team through the acquisition and integration of 21st Century Fox. Now that we’ve reached these important milestones, I believe the time is right for me to step down.”

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At the December 2017 Video Hall of Fame ceremony in Beverly Hills, Marinelli drew solid applause — and more than a few chuckles — when she advised her fellow home entertainment executives to “just keep swimming.” As Media Play News observed at the time, “The line, from the hit Disney film Finding Nemo, seemed to resonate with the several hundred execs in the room, many of whom have been contending with increasingly choppy seas for the better part of a decade.”

Kevin Mayer, chairman of DTCI, said Marinelli contributed “immeasurably” to Disney over the past three decades architecting and successfully negotiating “thousands of innovative” deals that benefited the company.

“I am so grateful for her insightful counsel and steadfast collaboration over the past year as we laid the foundation for DTCI and the upcoming launch of Disney+,” Mayer said. “I especially appreciate her willingness to stay on and see us through this time of tremendous change.”

As president of Global Content Sales & Distribution for Disney’s DTCI segment, Marinelli oversaw Disney’s program sales operations and distribution of the company’s direct-to-consumer apps to global accounts and broadcasters worldwide. She led the global distribution of film and television programming via home entertainment, broadcasting platforms, digital platforms, SVOD, pay networks, Hulu, the Movies Anywhere app and the upcoming Disney-branded direct-to-consumer streaming service Disney+.

Marinelli’s sales and distribution teams worked across domestic and international media markets by providing high-quality content created by Disney’s Studio Entertainment and Media Networks groups.

Under her direction, the division distributed properties from Disney, Walt Disney Animation Studios, Pixar Animation Studios, Marvel Studios, Lucasfilm, 20th Century Fox Film, Fox Animation, Disneynature, ABC Studios, ABC Entertainment, National Geographic, FX Productions, 20th Century Fox Television, WABC, Freeform, Disney Channel, Disney XD and Disney Junior to broadcasters, digital services and other distributors around the world.

Marinelli and her team gave consumers in domestic and international home entertainment media markets myriad viewing choices while providing the most compelling and entertaining films in the industry.

Fueled by the studio’s box office success, the division implemented new technologies and created a superior in-home viewing experience for its customers to drive both digital and physical ownership.

She also oversaw product development and marketing strategies for Disney’s portfolio of brands and franchises across all in-home platforms. Most recently, the in-home division vigorously expanded into the 4K UHD premium format and her team also managed the re-releases of the powerhouse classic titles from the vault as part of The Walt Disney Signature Collection.

As the architect and dealmaker behind Movies Anywhere, Marinelli drove the development of the free app and website that has revolutionized digital ownership by bringing the film libraries of five studios together in a virtual one-stop movie-watching shop.

After Marinelli and her team successfully launched Disney Movies Anywhere in 2017, she subsequently brokered deals with Sony Pictures, Twentieth Century Fox Film, Universal Pictures and Warner Bros. to join the initiative to transform digital movie purchase and engagement. She also spearheaded negotiations with digital retailers including Amazon Video, Google Play, iTunes, Vudu, FandangoNow, Microsoft Movies & TV, and Comcast Xfinity.

Marinelli joined Disney’s Buena Vista Television in 1985 as an account executive. She later served as director of sales, western division before assuming the role of senior vice president of sales. She was named executive vice president in 1996 and president in 1999. Marinelli was appointed as president of Disney/ABC Home Entertainment and Television Distribution in 2013 and was promoted to her role with DTCI in 2018.