Seven and Foxtel secure cricket media rights in $1bn deal

Arvind Hickman
By Arvind Hickman | 13 April 2018

Foxtel and the Seven Network have snatched the media rights for cricket from Nine and Ten in a deal worth at least $1 billion over six years.

The deal would see Seven pick up domestic test matches, including one Ashes series, and the majority of the Big Bash League. Foxtel would have the exclusive rights to some Big Bash League (BBL) games, ODIs and T20s and will simulcast domestic international cricket.

It is the first time a combination of the BBL and test match cricket will be broadcast on a single free-to-air TV network.

It is unclear at this stage how much each party is paying for cricket rights, but reports suggest Foxtel is underwriting a large proportion of the six-year package.

Details of who is paying for what is due to come out in an announcment at 2pm today, but AdNews understands it is less on a cost per hour basis than what Nine paid for tennis.

The deal would be a massive coup for Seven after it recently lost its domestic tennis rights to Nine for $300 million over five years.

Sarah Styles, head of female engagement for Cricket Australia, will open this year's Media + Marketing Summit in Sydney on 4 May.

It also represents a good deal for Cricket Australia, with an annual value of around $170 million, which is well above the $120 million per annum the sports body currently receives.

Previously, academics that specialise in sports broadcasting told AdNews they believed the recent ball tampering scandal could impair the value of cricket rights by several hundred million dollars and that the $1 billion mark was unlikely. Such predictions have proven to be wide of the mark.

Cricket's move to Seven and Foxtel, coupled with Nine picking up tennis, is the most significant shift in Australian sports broadcasting for several decades.

Nine has been the home of cricket for 40 years and some of its commentators have become established parts of Australian sports folklore over the years. Nine has previously stated it  would not be willing to pay much more for cricket rights than they currently do and are only interested in tests. Picking up tennis rights eased the pressure on Nine for cricket.

WWOS-Ashes-8-of-14.jpgNine's legendary cricket commentary team could be off air for the first time in 40 years.

A Nine spokesperson told AdNews the network was "immensly proud" of its decades long association between the Wide World of Sports and cricket.

“We wish Cricket Australia and its new broadcast partners well for the future success of the game," the spokesperson said.

“Cricket will continue to be a part of Nine’s schedule into the future with current deals in place covering the next ashes series from England in 2019, the ODI World Cup in the UK in the same year and in 2020 the T20 World Cups to be held in Australia.

“But most of all Nine is excited by our new partnership with Tennis Australia. A partnership that enables us to further evolve our business model into a new future. A partnership built on common values and vision to mutually build the game and Nine's business as we connect with more audiences the way they choose."

Network Ten Chief Executive Officer Paul Anderson said: “We are disappointed that our bid for the cricket television rights was rejected.

“Network Ten turned the Big Bash League into the television phenomenon it is today and one of the most popular sports in Australia, a sport that all Australians were able enjoy for free. We had planned to extend that innovation to other forms of the game.

“Network Ten and our BBL team led by David Barham revolutionised the way cricket is broadcast in Australia and attracted new, younger viewers to the game. At the same time, we invested heavily in the Women’s Big Bash League, broadcasting matches in prime time for the first time and raising its profile significantly.

“We are proud of everything we achieved with the BBL and WBBL."

Seven Network told AdNews it was unable to comment on cricket rights. AdNews has approached Foxtel for comment.

In recent years, Ten has played a pivotal role building the Big Bash League through its family-friendly brand of commentary after the competition had struggled to resonate in its earlier years on Fox Sports.

If the deal is inked as reported, it will be interesting to see is how much impact simulcasting international cricket on Foxtel will have on FTA ratings next summer.

Simulcasting already takes place with AFL and NRL, two other codes that are subjected to anti-siphoning laws.

In other major cricketing nations, such as England, cricket is mostly broadcast on pay TV, such as Sky Sports with only highlights aired on a FTA television. Australia's anti-siphoning laws prevent this scenario from occurring in this country.

Another interesting sub plot will be to see the impact reducing the number of Big Bash League games on FTA television could have BBL attendances, which is among the top 10 most attended sports competitions in the world.

The competition has been a jewel in Cricket Australia's crown in recent summers with sell out games and consistently strong TV audiences.

AdNews will keep track of cricket rights develops as they unfold today.

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