INTERNATIONAL - Amsterdam’s effort to rival London as a global media hub is gaining momentum.
The city’s wide pool of English-speaking skilled workers and strong international transport links have already convinced U.S. video streaming giant Netflix Inc., Uber Technologies Inc., Amazon.com Inc. and Viacom Inc. to establish a presence there.
Now billionaire Len Blavatnik’s sport streaming service DAZN has picked Amsterdam for a new development center, hiring 300 staff including software engineers and development managers as it tries to become a Netflix of sports with a foothold in 20 countries.
Officials in the Dutch business capital are pitching the city as a safe alternative to the U.K. for media and technology companies whose businesses could be disrupted by Britain’s exit from the European Union.
For now, London remains the preferred hub for international media companies, many of which use U.K. licences to broadcast across Europe under the region’s single-market rules. While companies are seeking continuity of that arrangement, it’s unlikely to remain after Brexit, spurring them to begin securing offices and licences on the continent.
London is also the main base for DAZN’s 1,200-strong workforce. The EU licensing issue is less pressing for streaming companies, which are not held to the same strict permit requirements as traditional broadcasters.
But the reasons DAZN did advance for picking Amsterdam could make uncomfortable reading for a U.K. government anxious to reassure local businesses that Brexit won’t leave them scrambling to find enough skilled workers.
“The ability to hire at a speed that can match the pace of our growth is essential to our business,” Ben Lavender, DAZN’s chief product officer, said in a statement Thursday. “We looked at several global locations, but nothing came close to Amsterdam for its infrastructure and the ability to attract the best global tech talent.”
Dutch Foreign Investment Agency commissioner Jeroen Nijland called DAZN a “great addition to this flourishing hub,” saying in the statement: “DAZN choosing Amsterdam highlights that we are fast becoming one of the media and broadcasting centers of the world.”
DAZN is muscling in on traditional sports broadcasting, buying rights to major events like Spanish La Liga soccer and boxing to compete for viewers with European pay-TV companies such as Sky Plc and Silvio Berlusconi’s Mediaset SpA.
Formed in 2016 with backing from Blavatnik’s Access Industries Holdings LLC, the service is currently available in Germany, Austria, Switzerland, Japan, Canada, Italy and the U.S. It aims to be live in 20 markets by 2022.