Sports

Who will win the cricket broadcasting rights?


Most cricket fans might be aware that the current TV rights deal expires next year, and later this year we’ll see the networks lining up their deals for the next cricket broadcast cycle in our country.

Here, I try to explore how the networks line up, what to expect, and whether fans are taking advantage of this moving forward.

The sad truth is that TV networks don’t operate the same way today as they did when Fox and Channel 7 secured the rights in 2017.

So unfortunately I don’t expect those same deals to ever be on the table again i.e. Channel 10 won’t be bidding to have all the cricket tunes on their main and secondary FTA channels.

Channel 9 will not have all the games for free on its channel, as they have branched out into Paramount+ and Stan Sports respectively.

Looking at the current options, we have four main candidates. Fox, 10, 9 and 7. I’m ignoring ABC and SBS from this run as they don’t have the funds. Likewise, I rule out options like Optus Sports or similar as they have no cricketing ambitions.

Starting with Ch. 9. Now that’s a personal opinion, but the Channel 9 coverage for all its nostalgia, was absolutely terrible at the end of their last contract.

Although this is something that could be improved upon, their attitude towards cricket is still ridiculously weird. Whether it’s having tennis hosts lined up for their Ashes coverage in 2019, or glossing over the men’s T20 WC last year and the Women’s World Cup this year – it seems cricket is no not on their agenda.

This will match the money they spent on tennis coverage and the recent acquisition of rugby union and UCL.

However, 9 bosses said they could carry both tennis and cricket in the summer (they have no idea how they will fare financially).

Rod Marsh (Photo by Adrian Murrell/Getty Images)

Stan Sports is also an important factor in this regard.

Stan Sports is in its infancy and needs more events than casual tennis and UCL. I don’t think Ch. 9 can win cricket rights and to me they are more of an underdog. PS Channel 9 is also chasing the Olympics.

Then ch. 7. Have they ever had a history with CA. After taking them to court for not fulfilling their “quality” duties and then losing that case, their relationship can be described as frosty.

The decision to swap tennis for cricket didn’t pay off as well as they hoped, but let’s not forget that in terms of ratings, they did well. Non-AO Ashes and BGT weeks, they won the week in the ratings on MFS and other stuff on 9.

They still don’t have a paid subscription model, which worked wonderfully for the Olympics. Or now? Well, coverage of the Olympics is under threat, they’re far from being stolen by other networks, and the AFL is their go-to and continues to do well.

Will they continue with cricket? I would say they would bite their tongues, stare at the ash sides and try to hit hard. Otherwise, they would have a big airing hole in the summer.

Then ch 10. Boy, did they try for the rights last time. All crickets including shield. All on FTA. No paying subscribers. Everything is free for everyone.

A fan’s dream offer – which fell short of CA’s expectations in terms of money. And collapsed. Since then, CBS and Paramount+ have arrived. And they dipped their toes in sporting waters with A-league. It started badly, but since then it’s been fine.

With CA I would expect them to bid and bid big. They have the money. They have a content-free platform. And if they need to keep growing Paramount+, they need to entice customers with something more.

The other side of the coin is that cricket with 10 will no longer be completely free. Expect ODIs, T20s, some BBL subscribers only on their streaming platform. This is the only reason why they would be interested in these rights, but expect them to become important.

Finally, Fox. Whenever PayTV enters the conversation, we know it leads to a lack of growth in the sport. Ethical reasons aside, Fox has done a good job.

Kayo was launched and made access cheaper. 24/7 channels, fast highlights, ad-free and a single platform for not only Australian cricket but also Indian, English, Kiwi, South African cricket and ICC leagues and tournaments.

However, focusing only on Australian cricket, they also achieved high marks. BBL continues to decline, but international cricket remains strong. So expect them to bid and do their best. They lost the A league to 10, part of the NBL to ESPN, rugby to Stan, but cricket has been identified as one of their main sports coverage alongside motorsports, the AFL and the NRL.

Can they continue their business? They paid dearly for the F1 expansion and acquired Netball from Ch. 9 recently. So who knows what’s left in the prize pool, but they’ve made more money than expected in the pandemic.

So here’s my review. Ch. 9 is the least likely to win the rights and Ch. 10 in terms of what it will mean to them and money available, will be the front runner. Both Fox and Channel 7 should be extremely interested in pursuing this deal, but may be overshadowed by 10 foreign investors.

It will be an interesting battle between these two.

However, for the fans, sadly, the era where you can watch all cricket for free on your TV is over and not coming back. So whether you’re shelling out the cash for Kayo, Paramount, or Stan, you’ll eventually need to do so to watch all the games live.

Each has its pros and cons, Kayo gives you more cricket, Stan has obligatory amusements tied to it, yada yada but none are free.

PS Ash retired this year and that will obviously have an impact when AO returns to the ratings next year. Will it inspire 9 to become great? Also, if Fox wins the rights, they must have an FTA partner for testing – if 7 pulls out, will we see a 10 + Fox combination? If you ask me, I’d say Fox+ 7 will get an extension, but 10 will be extremely close.




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