Australian Nine Network Wary Of Cricket Rights Bidding War; CA Hopes For $513M Pay Day
While Cricket Australia hopes for a A$500M ($513M) pay day, Channel Nine "seems reluctant to enter a bidding war with other television networks vying for the broadcast rights," according to Jon Pierik of THE AGE. Host broadcaster Channel Nine still believes that "it is best suited to televise the sport, but will face challenges from the Seven and Ten networks," with new Ten CEO Hamish McLennan signaling his network's strong interest this week. Cricket Australia "is after a bumper return for the rights." But Nine Managing Dir Jeff Browne hinted on Tuesday that "may not eventuate." Browne said, "Cricket as a product has not seen escalating ratings and, crucially, many scheduled days have been lost for weather [and] uneven opponents. Also, it is largely played outside the ratings period.'' An analysis of Test matches broadcast during the now expired seven-year, A$315M deal, reported recently in "The Australian Financial Review," reinforced the difficulty networks "can have in making money from sports rights." Nine's clause in its contract "allowing it to match the highest offer means it is still expected to retain the rights, despite its exclusive window for negotiations having closed" (THE AGE, 2/27). In Sydney, Ferguson & Kwek reported McLennan has confirmed that he "will bid to take the broadcasting rights to the sport," worth more than A$400M over the next five years. McLennan, who starts at the network next month, said ''cricket is the next cab off the rank'' in terms of his strategy. Ten "will also bid for the broadcasting rights to the Australian Open tennis, which are held by Channel Seven." By bidding for cricket, the new CEO hopes to attract a ''broader audience'' for Ten. One source said that "Ten could jointly bid with Fox Sports for the rights." McLennan declined to say how the TV network would fund the bid, but said that Ten "had low debt and a strong balance sheet." He said, "It is widely accepted that sport should be critical to programming. How we bid for any programming is a confidential nature. The board and shareholders are supportive of rebuilding our schedule" (SYDNEY MORNING HERALD, 2/26).