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April 2, 2024

DAZN Sees an Increase in Users Across Women’s Football Offering After Paywall Removal

DAZN’s decision to offer Women’s Football content for free sees positive results. By Ching Wai.

UK - DAZN lifted the paywall for its Women’s Football offering and other markets about two months ago on 23 January. This was done as part of a campaign to advocate for the growth and investment of women’s football, recognising the 1967 women’s football tournament where the English FA’s ban of women’s football was broken. In so doing, DAZN hoped for the media industry and broadcasters to offer broad distribution, high quality coverage and better marketing. The company also wanted rights holders to collaborate with clubs, brands, and broadcasters to maximise media value and encourage growth.

After the move, the platform has experienced an increase in registrations, according to Hannah Brown, who together with Esmeralda Negron are co-CEOs of the newly launched DAZN Women’s Sport division. Despite it being too early to conclude the results of the campaign, viewer’s continuing positive reception of DAZN’s free coverage of women’s football is an encouraging sight for the company. This is especially so as DAZN strives towards cultivating a consistently strong engagement for women’s football. Brown stressed that instead of simply drawing attention to major live sports events or matches with popular clubs, “week in week out engagement is the next step in really driving long term avidity.”

Viewers may not always desire to pay for content that they show interest in, resulting in a mismatch between content output and return on investment. The co-CEOs of DAZN Women’s Sport division observed and understood this. Brown commented that “very few people make an active decision to subscribe for [content of smaller football leagues and lesser known clubs] on a standalone basis,” even at a lower price point. The rising number of users for the Women’s Football offering after the lifting of its paywall therefore does not come as a surprise to the company.

DAZN and its Women’s Football Platforms

A sports streaming giant, DAZN has recently become the world’s largest investor in women’s football broadcasting. The platform had offered extensive coverage of the 2023 FIFA Women’s World Cup, and provides free-to-air coverage of games like the UWCL, WSL, Liga F, Frauen Bundesliga, Saudi Women’s Premier League, Serie A Feminine, D1 Arkema, NWSL and other domestic leagues.

DAZN’s Women’s Football YouTube channel also provides free content for viewers. Some of the channel’s largest audiences come from the U.K., France, Spain, Italy, Germany, and the U.S. 25% of the viewers watch the channel’s content through the YouTube app on their televisions. It will be a natural shift then, as DAZN recognised, for the viewers to move from watching the content on YouTube to watching the content on the DAZN platform, with no need to change devices.

“We think we can convert that audience to our app as long as our app is well distributed and is on their Samsung or their Apple TV or whatever it might be…so that’s really the bedrock of the strategy,” Brown stated. “[Providing the content for free] gives us a good opportunity to [bring] a much bigger audience to the women’s game and allow them to engage day in, day out.”

Negron had previously said of the division’s commitment to women’s football, “We are committed to fostering and cultivating fandom for women’s football. Women’s football needs investment to realise its potential – developing a first-party relationship with fans across all demographics to scale its audience and become commercially viable. Grassroots football has the potential to play a crucial role in driving the growth of the sport. Connecting the grassroots market to the women’s professional game is crucial in establishing a fanbase for women’s football from an early age.”

A Quick History on Women’s Football

Throughout history, football was played and enjoyed by both men and women alike. Even in 1921, there were approximately 150 women’s football clubs, and matches were popular spectator events, some of which attracted an astounding number of 45, 000 fans. Yet on 5 December 1921, the FA met and announced a ban on the women’s game from being played at the professional grounds and pitches of clubs affiliated to the FA. The reason? “The game of football is quite unsuitable for females and ought not to be encouraged.”

Although women continued to play the sport, there was a growing animosity towards women’s football as the men’s game gained attention and a sort of prestige. Kent County Football Association had even suspended a referee in 1947 simply because he was also working as manager of the Kent Ladies Football Club. The association stated that “women’s football brings the game into disrepute,” standing by its decision.

Yet, there were men who supported women’s football. For example, Percy Ashley, a scout for Bolton Wanderers, who founded Manchester Corinthians Ladies FC in 1949 so that his daughter Doris could play in a team. Ashley then set up a second team in 1957, The Nomads, to play against the Corinthians in charity matches, since local women’s teams were few.

The 60s came and women began campaigning and fighting for their rights. In 1967, the 1921 ban was broken when the Deal International Tournament, a women’s football competition organised by Arthur Hobbs, was organised and played. On 19 January 1970, the FA Council finally voted to repeal the 1921 ban. The Women’s FA Cup was finally played in 1971, and women’s football continued to flourish to this day.

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