Fox and Seven team up in A$1.2bn Cricket Australia rights swoop
Cricket Australia today announced a A$1.182-billion ($921-million) media rights agreement with pay-television's Fox Sports and free-to-air broadcaster Seven, signalling the end of commercial network Nine's 40 years as the main home of the Australian summer of cricket.
The six-year deal begins with the 2018-19 season.
Seven will pay A$450 million over the course of the contract to broadcast all men's home test matches and women's internationals, as well as 43 matches per season from the Big Bash League, the inter-city Twenty20 competition, and 23 from the Women's BBL.
Fox Sports, which is in the process of merging with pay-TV operator Foxtel, will show those same games, and in addition will hold exclusive rights to the men's one-day internationals and Twenty20 fixtures and an additional 16 BBL games. Fox has also landed digital rights.
The previous five-year contracts with free-to-air duo Nine and Ten, which expired at the end of the 2017-18 season, were worth A$590 million, of which Nine paid A$490 million for the Australia matches and Ten A$100 million for the BBL.
Cricket Australia said the new deal represents the first time that all women's international matches are guaranteed to be shown on free-to-air TV.
The 36 WBBL games not shown on Seven and Fox Sports will be live-streamed on Cricket Network through cricket.com.au and the CA Live App.
The deal also includes a new digital partnership between Fox Sports and Cricket Network, which guarantees Cricket Australia’s digital channels will continue to carry on-demand highlights of all cricket played in Australia. Fox Sports will also have digital rights for its platforms.
Cricket Network will also offer exclusive broadcast-quality streaming of other matches not shown on Seven or Fox Sports, including some international tour matches, as well as non-broadcast JLT Sheffield Shield and JLT One-Day Cup games.
In addition to its coverage of international and domestic matches, Fox Sports will broadcast the Shield final and 13 One-Day Cup games, plus some international tour matches.
The expansion of the BBL to a full home-and-away season, a total of 59 matches, means the number of games shown on free-to-air TV remains the same as last season on Ten.
James Sutherland, chief executive of Cricket Australia (pictured centre), said: "Our thanks go to Channel Nine, who for more than 40 years has broadcast international cricket at a world-renowned standard – and in so doing has done more to promote our sport than any organisation in Australian cricket history.
"Our sincere thanks also to Network Ten for their role in taking the Big Bash League to a new level, and for so willingly providing a platform to launch and grow the Women’s Big Bash League. As a startup League, the BBL is a phenomenal success story. Over the last five years Ten has made an extraordinary contribution to the league and its growth in bringing new fans to cricket.
"We have nothing but gratitude and respect for Nine and Ten – and sincerely thank them for their contribution to our sport. We’re very excited about what the future holds with both Fox Sports and Seven West Media."
Tim Worner, chief executive of Seven West Media (pictured left), said: "For Seven it means that for the first time in history, a single free-to-air network will be delivering the number one summer and winter sports – cricket and AFL. This will underpin our transformational business strategy for years to come."
His Foxtel counterpart Patrick Delany (pictured right) added: "Fox Sports understands the immense responsibility that comes with being the broadcaster of Australian Test cricket and we will take extraordinary care of this privilege, with the fan always at the heart of what we do. In the same way we revolutionised television coverage of the AFL and NRL, we will do the same for cricket. It will be like nothing fans have experienced. We will treat the game with the respect it deserves while reinvigorating it across every form."
Cricket Australia issued the rights invitation to tender comprising 11 packages last month, setting an initial deadline of 19 March for bids to be submitted. However, the governing body subsequently asked for new offers amid reports that it was dissatisfied with the joint proposal from Nine and Ten worth no more than A$130 million per year.
The pair were reported to have submitted a new bid a week ago worth A$900 million over six years.
Nine said it was "immensely proud" of its long association with cricket, while Ten admitted it was disappointed that its joint bid with Nine had been rejected.
The near-A$200-million-per-year deal is something of a coup for Cricket Australia, which would have been concerned about the impact of a recent ball-tampering scandal involving the Australian men's team, which has resulted in bans for three players, including captain Steve Smith, and the loss of several sponsorship deals.