Seven fires a light cheque broadside at Cricket Australia

Chris Pash
By Chris Pash | 16 September 2020

Seven West Media has paid Cricket Australia only what it thinks is "fair value" for rights to a season the broadcaster believes is sub standard.

The media group had been due to send $25 million, the first of three part payments for the right to broadcast cricket, but decided it wasn't getting what it had agreed to. 

CEO James Warburton: “Seven has paid the first instalment reflecting our assessment of fair value.”

And the media group has invoked a clause in its contact allowing for an independent assessment of the value of the media rights. 

The amount paid is unknown but it is presumably less than that expected by Cricket Australia as an interim payment. 

“Putting aside the questions of breach, in accordance with the contract Seven has invoked the right to appoint an independent expert to determine the fair value of the media rights against the expected schedule for the season compared to the originally published schedule," says Warburton. 

The latest move ensures the contract negotiations will go to arbitration. 

In a statement, Cricket Australia says it is confident of delivering a "compelling summer schedule that will meet our commitments to our broadcast partners".

Seven West Media last week sent Cricket Australia a breach of contract notice, the first step in terminating its broadcast deal.

The media group has been unhappy with the quality of cricket available for its free-to-air broadcast and argues it shouldn’t be paying as much for the rights.

Seven West and Fox Sports, majority owned by News Corp, have a six-year, $1.18 billion broadcast rights deal, which started in 2018.

Seven is paying $450 million ($75 million a year) for tests, 43 Big Bash League matches and women's internationals and BBL.

The broadcaster has won significant reductions in broadcast rights fees from the AFL after the pandemic cut into the playing season.

Meanwhile, Nick Hockley, Cricket Australiais interim CEO, says the 2020-21 season is shaping up as a massive summer of cricket.

“The Australian men’s team achieved No. 1 ranking in Tests and T20Is over the past 12 months and will go head-to-head with India, the world’s largest cricketing nation and a formidable opponent on the field. It is one of the great sporting rivalries and this summer’s series across all formats is already generating enormous interest," he says.

“Our Aussie women were recently voted Australia’s most popular sporting team, male or female, which is testament to longstanding success, including the recent and unforgettable T20 World Cup triumph in March. We can’t wait to launch the summer with their six-match series against great rivals, New Zealand, in a little over a week’s time.

“Interest will then carry over to the WBBL and build upon last season’s first-ever standalone tournament. The chance to see the heroes of Australia’s World Cup-winning team playing against the best T20 talent from Australia and around the world is an exciting prospect for fans. The WBBL is by far the world’s leading women’s domestic cricket competition.

“And we are more confident than ever about staging a successful BBL, which is by far and away the most watched sporting league in Australia on a per-match basis. Clubs have embarked on ambitious recruitment drives, both in Australia and around the world, which will be complemented by exciting innovations to playing conditions to be announced shortly. The BBL brings millions of Australian families together through the school holidays and, after such a tough winter, will be more important than ever this year.

“Scheduling during a pandemic is challenging however despite these challenges we have been the first sport to bring an international representative team into Australia and we greatly appreciate the support of governments and overseas cricket boards to make this happen. 

“Countless people are working together to ensure this summer is a huge success, including the players through the Australian Cricketers’ Association, the State and Territory Associations, governments, sponsors and broadcast partners.

“Together we are confident of delivering a compelling summer schedule that will meet our commitments to our broadcast partners and the high expectations of our fans."

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