Channel Ten fires $500m bid for cricket rights

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Australian Test cricket captain Michael Clarke (R) shares a joke with teammate Ricky Ponting (L). AFP PHOTO / Greg WOOD

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Ten Network has dropped a $500 million bid on Cricket Australia in the latest round of negotiations for the next five years of broadcast rights.

The Australian Financial Review has reported the network has tabled a deal worth $500 million and now Nine Entertainment Co. has four weeks to decide whether it can match the deal as it holds a ‘last rights’ deal with Cricket Australia.

All Test and limited-over matches as well as domestic competitions were included in the deal tabled at the end of a four-week exclusive negotiation period Network Ten had with Cricket Australia.

This announcement heralds a possible new future for Cricket in Australia. For decades now the home of cricket has been Channel Nine with Richie, Bill, Tony, Ian and the boys bringing the familiar coverage into homes every summer.

The approach in recent years has been to infuse the commentary and presentation teams with younger talent, which at times has been quite successful (Mark Taylor) and other times has lowered the standard of broadcast (Michael Slater, Ian Healy).

If the incumbents cannot match the mammoth offer – which is around $120 million more than most insiders were predicting and expecting – that approach becomes history.

A lawsuit filed by Cricket Australia against Channel Nine would suggest the relationship is rocky at best and a new broadcaster is looking more likely.

Some new voices and faces will be needed introduce us to the wear on the pitch, weather elements and, thankfully, The Block will be a much less prominent feature of broadcasting.

Network Ten have made some fairly splashy hires since taking over the Wallabies rights – bringing Gordon Bray and Matt Burke into the fold – and will have to pay some good money to lure in high profile cricket callers and analysts.

On top of that it is speculated Network Ten will actually lose money on the deal in a bid to win viewing numbers they’ve been bleeding to the other commercial networks.

The rights also include the Big Bash League, which was previously on Fox Sports (who paid $12.5 million) and the Ryobi Cup and Sheffield Shield finals.

That is a lot of sport to find room for, on top of internationals.

One interesting aspect to think about is the option for more domestic games to be shown on free-to-air television for the first time in years. Network Ten may be able to negotiate time slots to make this available on their ONE HD channel.

Times are changing in Australian cricket – look for the Big Bash League to find a prominent home on television going forward, this will bring smiles to casual fans and Cricket Australia executives alike.

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