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US giant Paramount has offered Cricket Australia about $1.5 billion to secure the rights to Test matches and the Big Bash League for the next seven years, but the sporting body remains in talks with its incumbent partners Foxtel and Seven about an alternative arrangement.
Three separate industry sources, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, said Paramount, who owns Network Ten, has offered about $210 million per annum to Cricket Australia, in a deal that could be worth $1.5 billion over a seven-year period (the desired term of the agreement).
Cricket Australia wants a new deal, which would commence in 2025, to be signed before Christmas.Credit:AP
The two companies are in the process of finalising a long-form contract, but that hasn’t stopped discussions from continuing with broadcasters Seven and Foxtel. Cricket Australia is hoping to have a deal signed before Christmas.
Seven and Foxtel declined to comment. CA also declined to comment.
A Network Ten spokesperson said the network had deep financial resources and access to new technology that could improve sports broadcasts. “We have a commitment to deliver a premium product with greater visibility, consistency and flexibility across all forms of cricket, the network would provide blanket domestic coverage and take the sport to a new and freshly engaged audience.
“Network Ten and Paramount+ are keen to restore cricket to its former prominence, ignite the love affair between Australians and this great sport and provide the quality of coverage that television audiences and fans deserve.”
Nine Entertainment Co was also in advanced talks about a rights deal but is not as close to the dollar figure that CA desires. Nine is the owner of this masthead.
Any deal with Cricket Australia does not include production costs, which are roughly $40 million per year. That may be expensive, but for Paramount, securing the rights would solidify its position as a sports broadcaster in the Australian market and help drive audiences to its network.
The global entertainment company, which locally runs Network Ten, has spent the past two years trying to secure the rights to major sporting codes. Buying the rights to sport is expensive, but they are typically big drivers of audiences, advertising dollars and subscriptions. Paramount announced a five-year, $200 million deal for all A-League and W-League matches last May, before securing a deal to broadcast the Matildas and Socceroos matches in June.
More recently, Paramount offered $6 billion over 10 years for the rights to the AFL. The offer significantly drove up the final offer to the AFL by incumbents, Seven and Foxtel.
Paramount and Cricket Australia have spent the last few weeks building out a long-form contract. Seven and Foxtel do not need to do this, as their existing contracts can be amended. Paramount will want a deal to be sorted before the new year, to avoid the risk of becoming a stalking horse.
It wouldn’t be a broadcast rights negotiation without high-level executive meetings and strategic appearances. Foxtel boss Patrick Delany and one of his predecessors, Richard Freudenstein (who happens to be leading the broadcast rights negotiations for CA), met for lunch in the last week, despite a deal being publicly positioned as a sure thing for Paramount.
Seven, which is hoping to save more than $135 million by proving in the Federal Court that CA breached its Big Bash League broadcast rights contract by reducing the quality and standards of the Big Bash League, has continued to meet with key executives about retaining the rights to Tests. It would also consider airing the Big Bash League if the competition was amended.
Lachlan Murdoch’s annual Christmas party last Thursday was attended by Freudenstein, Seven West Media board director Ryan Stokes, and Delany.
The key point of contention for Foxtel and Seven, according to sources, remains the Big Bash League. The ratings have struggled since the competition was extended to 56 matches and they want it revamped to ensure it can still attract audiences. Cricket Australia is assuring the two media companies that can be done, but there is no binding proposal to do so. Ten does not want the length of the BBL competition reduced.
An increase in the rights package from about $197 million per annum to $210 million is not as large as some recent deals struck between sporting bodies and the networks (the AFL and Tennis Australia), but it is enough to tie up the rights until 2031.
Ratings for the Test series between Australia and the West Indies have sat at around 900,000 per night for matches in Perth and Adelaide across Seven and Foxtel, and are likely to have climbed over the 1 million mark when Kayo and Foxtel streaming figures are added.
As the year moves further into December and peak summer time, audiences for cricket are likely to continue to rise, strengthening CA’s bargaining position on one level. But on another, grim forecasts for inflation and the state of the economy cause pressure in the other direction in terms of what broadcasters are prepared to commit to paying.
CA chairman Lachlan Henderson has previously said cricket was undervalued in the Australian broadcast market and the rise of streaming services as major rights players should lift the game’s saleability. For CA, a lucrative deal is crucial to ensuring it can keep pace with overseas Twenty20 leagues. The challenge for CA is that broadcasters are limited by how much they can spend. Seven and Foxtel’s historic AFL broadcast deal and Nine’s lucrative tennis deal will tighten the purse strings for all three broadcasters. Nine and Seven are also interested in securing a deal with the International Olympic Committee about its next rights package.
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