Online sports video group DAZN, backed by billionaire Sir Leonard Blavatnik, reported a $1.3 billion loss for 2020, down only slightly on the previous year, with accumulated losses of more than $3.7 billion. In its bid to become the Netflix of Sport, DAZN is incurring major losses but is betting on creating a more interactive experience.

DAZN reported that it lost subscribers when sports events were suspended during the peak of the pandemic. Operating costs also fell due to rebates and contract terminations on sports rights. Revenue rose to $871 million from a restated $819 for the previous year.

Online video revenue for 2020 was $724 million, following the fourth full year of trading in markets including Germany and Japan, the second year in Italy and the United States, and the first full year in Spain. Europe contributed just over $400 million of the online revenue.

DAZN does not report customer numbers but report that revenues for the United Kingdom represented only $48 million, of which only $0.5 million came directly from online video.

Rights costs for 2020 were $1.20 billion, down from $1.71 billion the previous year.

DAZN reported a net loss of $1.30 billion in 2020, compared to $1.44 billion the previous year.

The group has been backed by investment from a billionaire who has established a reputation for philanthropy, although his interest appears to be primarily commercial.

Sir Leonard Blavatnik was born in Odessa by the Black Sea in what is now Ukraine, but his family emigrated to the United States in 1978. His fortune, estimated at £23 billion, was made in diversified investments through his conglomerate company, Access Industries, which is also the majority owner of DAZN Group. He is reported to be the wealthiest person in Britain and received a knighthood for his philanthropy in 2017, as a benefactor to many museums and art galleries.

Access Industries loaned DAZN over $1 billion in 2020 and a further $1.1 billion after the year end. Some of these loans attracted an interest rate of 30%. At the end of 2021, Access Industries subscribed for $4.3 shares in the company and retired the shareholder loans.

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

DAZN missed out on the possibility of acquiring BT Sport, with BT opting instead for a joint venture with Discovery.

The company says it is aiming to create a deeper, more interactive experience, including betting, gaming, e-commerce, and non-fungible tokens.