Channel 9 cricket TV rights: Broadcast battle, Channel 7, Fox Sports, News Corp

Channel 9 has emerged as a shock contender to reclaim cricket’s TV rights as the broadcast battle takes a fresh twist.

Channel 9 has emerged as a shock 11th hour contender to reclaim cricket’s TV rights as Channel 7’s hopes fade.

It’s understood Cricket Australia bosses remain nervous about taking the plunge on partnering with Channel 10 and their US owner Paramount, and have been working in the background to see if a partnership can be formed between Nine, Fox Sports and News Corp.

The talks with Nine – cricket’s former partners of 40 years – indicate CA has cooled on re-entering a new arrangement with existing free-to-air partner Channel 7, who is currently suing them in the Federal Court.

Paramount remains the leading bidder with a reported offer of $1.5 billion, but there are concerns about the ailing performance of Channel 10 as a network, compared to rivals Nine and Seven, and about Paramount’s reach as a streaming service compared to Fox Sports and Kayo Sports .

One of the main hitches in a deal being done with Paramount appears to be concerns about the reliability of the streaming app service, which has received complaints about its performance from A-League soccer fans.

Paramount and Ten are promising new technology, but at this point that remains untested.

However, reach is the other concern from CA executives about partnering with Paramount and Ten.

Channel 7 and Channel 9 are the leading free-to-air networks by a long way, compared to Channel 10 whose numbers show is in danger of dropping below a 20 percent ratings share.

Cricket Australia knows that Nine and Seven are proven producers of top quality sport as the free-to-air broadcasters of the NRL and AFL respectively. In comparison, Ten has the A-League and Melbourne Cup horse racing which have dropped audiences year on year at an alarming rate.

As a streaming service, the only sports fans attached to Paramount as it stands are soccer supporters and from an A-League perspective those numbers haven’t reached the targets hoped for when the deal was signed.

Fox Sports and Kayo on the other hand have a reputation as sports leaders, and have subscribers already locked in from the worlds of NRL, AFL and cricket, as the existing pay-per-view partner of Cricket Australia.

Channel 9 was the 40-year home of cricket from the World Series revolution, but a return to the network after five years on Seven would be extraordinary given Nine has re-committed to the Australian Open Tennis rights over summer.

Nine have committed upwards of $100 million a summer on the tennis so the idea of ​​squeezing in Australia’s biggest summer sport in cricket as well is a fascinating concept.

To partner with Nine would mean Cricket Australia would have to be comfortable with the Australian Open being directly promoted against the cricket season.

If Nine was to score Big Bash games Cricket Australia may need to be comfortable with games being broadcast on GEM, due to the fact the Australian Open and other lead-up tournaments will be on Nine’s main channel.

Fox Sports shares a good working relationship with Channel 7 given their association with the AFL rights, however, Fox has shared the NRL broadcasting duties with Nine for many years.

There could be complications with how Nine, Fox Sports and News Corp could come to an arrangement given the competing interests of Stan, Kayo and their respective newspaper groups.

Following Kerry Packer’s death in 2005, the narrative changed on TV rights after Nine had held them for several decades.

Cricket Australia from that point welcomed rival bidders and as time went on the TV rights became more of a commercial transaction than a love affair from Nine’s point of view.

By the end, cricket and Nine were like a loveless marriage and Nine was one of the first networks eliminated in the last rights negotiations back in 2018.

Nine trumpeted the claim of the Australian Open rights for the amount of money they would save on production.

Cricket Australia have indicated they would like to have a deal done by Christmas, but are not committed to a deadline.

Originally published as Channel 9 shock contender to win back cricket free-to-air TV rights


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