The cricketing media rights environment in Australia is set for a significant overhaul which has seen free-to-air provider Seven West Media emerge as the provider of home Test cricket over the 2018-23 cycle, whilst pay TV network Foxtel is also back in the mix. This will signal the end of fellow free-to-air broadcaster The Nine Network's coverage of the summer sport it once ruled since Kerry Packer originally bought them in the late 1970s.
The billion dollar deal
The deal, to be announced today, is expected to outline the following:
- Seven West Media will have the rights to Test cricket in Australia and broadcast of 43 Big Bash League games. These may be simulcast alongside Fox Sports. The deal is reportedly worth AUD 75m per year or AUD 450m over the cycle.
- Foxtel will exclusively broadcast home one day internationals, T20 internationals and 16 Big Bash League games. Their deal is reportedly worth AUD 105m per year or AUD 630m over the cycle. Network Ten had previously broadcast The Big Bash League for the past five seasons, whom they had taken over from Fox.
- The Nine Network will broadcast the next Ashes series in England in 2019 and the World Cup which precedes it and the Men's and Women's T20 World Cups which are being held in Australia in 2020.
The Nine Network association ends
The change is not surprising given Nine shocked Seven West earlier in the year, by claiming the rights to the Australian Open Tennis tournament alongside all the lead-in events to the first Tennis major of the year. That set Nine back AUD 60m per year or 300m over the five-year cycle. Seven had previously held a 40-year stranglehold itself on Tennis broadcasts in Australia.
From an economic standpoint, Nine were forced into a corner due to the consistent losses they incurred from broadcasting cricket in Australia each year. While their deal was reportedly worth AUD 100m per year, they only generated revenue of AUD 60-70m. Losses of upwards of AUD 30m is not sustainable for a free-to-air network.
They will still have some presence in the market, with broadcast rights to the next Ashes series in England next year, the 2019 World Cup which precedes it, and the home Men's and Women's T20 World Cups in Australia in 2020.
Network Ten builds the Big Bash up, falls themselves
The new deal is expected to leave a sour taste in the mouths of executives at rival free-to-air provider Network Ten, who had done a superb job in the last five years building up the Big Bash League, Australia's domestic T20 tournament, which has amassed a significant following both in the Men's and Women's games, and high television ratings. They have especially brought Women's cricket into focus by bringing their matches into prime time slots alongside the Men's.
Anti-Siphoning Laws under the scanner
The Broadcasting Services Act 1992 has been a form of media regulation since it was enacted, restricting media access to certain sporting events. The Act provides that free-to-air broadcasters are given the first right of refusal to broadcasting rights for certain sporting events, which include cricket series played.
Whilst the Test series and Big Bash League matches may be provided as a simulcast between Seven West and Foxtel, the fact that sole rights to one day international and T20I cricket have been provided to Foxtel, may raise some questions in that respect.
Approximately one-third of Australian households have the Foxtel subscription.
Are you happy with the news that Australian cricket will be switching to a Seven/Foxtel deal? Let us know in the comments below.