Australian cricket "has entered a new era, severing ties with the Nine Network" more than 40 years after Kerry Packer revolutionized the sport and signing a A$1.18B ($918.6M), six-year media broadcast deal, according to Darren Davidson of THE AUSTRALIAN. After "months of tough negotiations that were thrown off balance by the ball-tampering scandal in South Africa," Cricket Australia clinched a record deal in partnership with Seven West Media and Foxtel that confirms the sport as "one of the hottest commodities in broadcasting." The sale of TV rights to Seven and Foxtel from this October, which is double the previous A$600M package with Nine and Ten, "will bolster grassroots cricket and provide new funds for the women's game." For Foxtel, the deal, which includes exclusive digital rights, "vindicates the decision" by shareholders News Corp and Telstra to merge the subscription-TV operator with Fox Sports, "providing a summer franchise to underpin plans to launch streaming services to compete with Netflix." Weeks after losing the tennis rights to Nine, Seven "secured a significant victory with its foray into cricket." Australian Communications Minister Mitch Fifield said, "The government is pleased that all test matches and the vast majority of an expanded schedule of Big Bash League matches will remain available free to the public." The TV rights deal will "reshape the media landscape and draw a line under the Packer era." The deal is a "big blow" to the CBS-backed Ten, which has lost the "coveted rights" to the BBL. Tests and 43 of the 59 BBL matches will be simulcast between Seven and Foxtel's Fox Sports. Fox Sports will air men's home one-day int'l and Twenty20 matches, along with the remaining 16 games of the BBL. More cricket content will be available for free "than ever before," with about 80% of all int'l cricket on Seven. Seven Chair Kerry Stokes said, "I am excited about having Australia's only truly national game back on Seven." While Fox Sports and Channel Seven will both televise home tests and women's internationals, the two networks will have different commentary teams and the subscription network's broadcast will be ad-free (THE AUSTRALIAN, 4/14).
REBUILDING PROJECT: REUTERS' Jonathan Barrett reported CA CEO James Sutherland said, "We've obviously got some rebuilding to do, but it is something that we've spoken to both Fox and Seven about." It was not "immediately clear" how the value of the deal was calculated. Seven said in a statement to shareholders that its share of the annual cash rights cost was A$75M ($58.3M). Shares in broadcaster Seven were up more than 12% on Friday, while Nine's share price was flat (REUTERS, 4/12). In London, Jamie Smyth reported Australia's home one-day and Twenty20 matches will not be shown on free-to-air terrestrial TV "for the first time in four decades in Australia" (FINANCIAL TIMES, 4/13).
TOP BILLING: In Sydney, Pierik & Wu reported Seven has "yet to determine which sporting jewel in its crown will take pride of place on the network's primary channel next summer." The network has a year remaining on its contract with Tennis Australia to televise the Australian Open, but is "open to sub-licensing that." The "cash cow" that is the BBL will be mid-tournament during the 2019 Australian Open, meaning cricket and tennis -- should Seven still have the rights to the latter -- "will jostle for coverage on the primary channel" (SYDNEY MORNING HERALD, 4/14).
SEEKING TALENT: Wu also reported former cricketers Shane Warne, Adam Gilchrist and Ricky Ponting are believed to be "keenly sought after" by Seven to join its coverage team, while former test players Mark Waugh and Damien Fleming are also believed to be "on the network's radar" (SMH, 4/13).