Son Of Sun Tzu blog

Son Of Sun Tzu blog

They keep saying my audience will find me…

12 Aug 2023

My experience of DAZN


DAZN has been given the contract for international coverage of the NFL this year (2023). I only really know DAZN by reputation so I was assuming the worst, but hoping for the best. I hadn’t realised that the NFL pre-season games had started, and I see that “my” Seahawks have already played the Vikings. So I brought up the game on my PC and start to watch…

( As a Linux user I’d already discovered that the DAZN service doesn’t work with Chromium any more, or even with DRM friendly Firefox, but with Microsoft Edge installed I was all set. )

The experience

Please bear in mind that this is a recording. While it didn’t always happen, the old NFL GamePass service sometimes used to edit the adverts out of recorded games.

  • The first minute is the DAZN stinger, the same thirty or so seconds of video and audio, repeated repeatedly. This is the visual equivalent of hold music. I’m on hold, in a recording?
  • Then there’s a countdown using player shirt numbers, which is cool… I’m optimistic.
  • Another four minutes of the DAZN stinger again, repeated repeatedly.
  • 2.5 mins game introduction from the Seahawks network1.
  • Another four minutes of the DAZN stinger again, repeated repeatedly.
  • We’ve missed the opening kickoff. To be fair, that might be a Seahawks network problem… as you’ll see.
  • The game continues, with adverts replaced by the DAZN stinger.
  • At about seventeen minutes in the Seahawks commentators are replaced by the Vikings commentators. This change is not explained.
  • All credit due here… but probably to NFL Network… the swap from glitchy Seahawks commentary to Viking commentary was pretty quick.
  • We’re then back to the Seahawks commentators.
  • Then there’s a service interruption with a default DAZN notice being displayed.
  • We quickly return to the Viking commentators.
  • There are no adverts, no edited out advertising breaks, just one of two or three DAZN stingers repeated repeatedly on loop.
  • At about ninety minutes into the broadcast, the Vikings commentators explain that we’re listening to them because of a technical issue with the Seahawks commentary.
  • For the rest of the game there are almost no adverts, no edited out advertising breaks, no variety of content, just one of two or three DAZN stingers repeated repeatedly.
  • The only adverts we see is one for NFL Plus… which is a USA only service, which we can’t buy, as international customers.
  • And at half-time there were adverts for DAZN’s “NFL GamePass”, which is the service I’m watching, and that I can only watch if I’ve already bought it.
  • The game finishes… and there is no access to any post-game material.
  • Another couple of minutes of the DAZN stinger again, repeated repeatedly, just in case you hadn’t seen it enough.
  • The NFL GamePass DAZN logo is displayed, silently, for about fifty minutes.

So I assume the final, best, high-quality product DAZN put out is “we took a feed from the NFL Network, we don’t show their adverts because we don’t want to give anyone anything they didn’t pay for. But we’ll just obscure that content with the stingers as a bare minimum of effort, then when we noticed it had finished we pressed stop. We don’t do editing.”

And as the cherry on top, DAZN also emailed me to say that the subscription that should have been taken out incrementally had all been taken out at once.

As the cherry on top of the cherry, that DAZN stinger, which they use to smear over parts of the broadcast, seems to have two or three versions. One of those versions seems to cycle in a thirty second loop. The default time period for advancing the recording on DAZN is in thirty second increments. So a thirty second loop, combined with a thirty second video advance, means that when you’re skipping through that repeated stinger you’re never quite sure whether you’ve moved forward in the recording or not. That’s a genuinely amazingly awful design choice - of all the loop increments they could pick when editing together a stinger, which is a terrible idea anyway - what’s the absolute worst choice they could make?

My post-game analysis

Nothing is surprising here, which is a shame. As an over-simplification - in presentation and promotion, companies are all about “customer first”, “customer focused”, and “delighting their customers”. While the DAZN website is mostly promotional graphics for their product, if you search hard enough you can find DAZN state “The quality of our content is paramount - for our customers and our partners. That’s why we continue to invest in our technology and are constantly improving and evolving production standards”. I’ve only experienced one game of this season, but “the quality of our content is paramount” is a clearly hollow statement.

As an NFL fan I’m already aware of my low place on the ladder… each week some games will be “geo-blocked”, at short notice, because the NFL holds its commercial partners in higher regard that its customers. But this service appears to be the bare contractually obligated minimum. That’s a shame - the service looks great, and the sheer technical achievement of putting it together is huge, the issues with the service are in the commercial and design choices, not the technical ones.

There are a lot of issues with the NFL as an organisation and as a sport, but there are a lot of benefits too in what it does, what the sport demonstrates, and who it puts in front of millions and millions of viewers.

Having looked forward to this season for so long, it’s just disheartening to see the presentation of the sport, especially for international fans, be so disappointing.

A late note

Later on the same day, I watched another NFL pre-season game, but on the itvX service here in the UK. During some of the sporadic ad breaks, especially when the length was unknown or they were handing over to local stations, itvX also showed a repetitive video clip. But the image was static, and with a gently undulating sound:

You'll have to imagine the sound.

This alternated with some kind of in-stadium feed, as shown below, a wide shot of all the activity, with accompanying crowd noise and stadium announcements. While the stadium noise’s volume was a little louder than the in-game coverage, and the PA was a little “thumpy”, especially in comparison to the soothing “back soon” sound, it was still so much more interesting and atmospheric that that DAZN stinger of yells and playcalls.

A wide stadium shot, a nice touch.

This might just be something the Panthers Network do, who were the broadcaster for this game, but still, it shows that there’s innovations and options here.

  1. It’s common practice for pre-season NFL games to be covered by a “local” broadcaster, rather than by the American networks such as Fox or CBS. ↩︎