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Australian cricket's new TV deal: All the key questions answered

The Big Bash League is a major talking points out of the new cricket TV rights deal. (AAP Image/David Mariuz)
Editor
13th April, 2018
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Well, it’s happened. Cricket’s TV rights have changed hands for the next six years, with Fox Sports and Channel Seven picking them up in a mammoth deal.

There are plenty of questions needing to be answered and, luckily for you, they are all here in the one spot.

» End of an era confirmed: Foxtel and Seven snatch cricket rights from Nine
» Foxtel revolutionised rugby league on TV, can they do the same for cricket?

Who, how much and how long?
The new deal involves Channel Seven and Fox Sports in a joint agreement. Seven are essentially doing a swap from tennis to cricket, while Fox Sports are the big winners, adding every game Australia will play to their summer line-up.

The deal is touted to be worth $1.182 billion over a six-year period. It’s a big win for Cricket Australia, given the total value of the last deal was only around $450 million in total over five years. This is more than double that on a year-by-year basis.

Which cricket is going to be shown where?
The new deal, for the first time, will put ODI and international T20 cricket behind a paywall. Fox Sports will have exclusive coverage of Australia’s international limited overs cricket in a major coup for the network.

Test cricket, still on the anti-siphoning list, will be shown on Channel Seven and Fox Sports in a simulcast agreement.

The Big Bash League will be split between the two networks, with the finals still set to be shown on free-to-air TV through Seven. The season is expanded to 59 games in a home-and-away format, with 16 shown exclusively on Fox.

On the domestic front, the Sheffield Shield final and 13 JLT one-day series matches will be broadcast on Fox Sports, as well as tour matches.

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Women’s cricket also receives a boost, with every international match and 23 WBBL matches set to be simulcast across the two networks.

Where does it leave Channel Nine and Channel Ten?
Put simply, neither network is going to be in a great spot without the TV rights to Australia’s iconic summer sport.

It’s going to leave Nine without any sporting content during the 2019 summer, something which is simply unheard of. They recently signed a new reported $60 million per year deal to show the Australian summer of tennis, but it doesn’t begin until 2020.

Seven having the tennis this summer potentially creates scheduling headaches though, with the network unwilling to broadcast the Olympics and Commonwealth Games across all three of their stations. Given the tennis is generally shown on 7 and 7TWO, it’ll be interesting to see exactly how the network juggle the sporting action.

For 40 years, Nine have had the cricket as the staple of their summer content, so it’ll be interesting to see if they can fill the void.

Ten will also be left without a major sports offering. Currently, they have one A-League match per week to go with the BBL, but it’s simulcast from Fox, is broadcast on ONE, and receives low ratings more often than not.

Without the BBL, their sporting line-up for summers to come looks bare.

With Supercars, Formula 1 and the A-League locked down, it’s unclear where Nine and Ten (the former for this summer at least) will turn to for sports content. The NBL is rumoured to be chasing a new free-to-air broadcaster, but with Fox Sports holding the rights, it would be similar to the A-League – a maximum of one or two games per week.

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What about the World Cup and 2019 Ashes series?
Channel Nine already have contracts in place to cover all of the 2019 Ashes Series in England, the 2019 Cricket World Cup and the 2020 World T20, which is set to be hosted in Australia. Of course, that’s because those deals are worked out with the International Cricket Council and the England and Wales Cricket Board, who govern those events, rather than Cricket Australia, who only have control over cricket played Down Under.

Nine will obviously hold onto the deals for those events, but it could throw a spanner in the works nonetheless. For the 2015 Ashes, Nine sent their own team of commentators over to England – by the middle of 2019, they may not have a dedicated cricket team anymore.

The World Cup and World T20 broadcasts shouldn’t be effected, given Nine will simply pick up on the international English feed provided by ICC rights holder Star Sports, as they did for matches played during the 2015 Cricket World Cup in Australia, including those featuring the host nation.

What about other overseas cricket?
There shouldn’t be much of a change here. Fox Sports currently deal with overseas cricket boards to ensure all of Australia’s Test, ODI and T20 cricket gets shown back at home.

They will continue to do that one would expect, given this deal has no bearing on the showing of cricket played away from home. Cricket Australia don’t control it and without a big enough audience to interest free-to-air broadcasters outside of the Ashes, it will still be hidden to those without Foxtel.

Who will host and commentate?
Seven have put on show a deep stable of hosts over their Olympic and Commonwealth Games broadcasts. The free-to-air network are likely to be led by Mel McLaughlin, who did a superb job when she was with Ten and hosted the Big Bash League.

McLaughlin has been at Seven since before the 2016 Rio Olympics and is likely to have a big role in their coverage over the summer, given she has usually worked on their tennis coverage.

Jim Wilson is another hosting name who springs to mind. With plenty of cricket to be shown, including likely double-headers in the BBL, one host isn’t going to be enough, and Wilson has been another fixture of their tennis and multi-sport event coverage.

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In terms of commentators, it’s hard to say exactly what is going to happen.

For Fox Sports, it would pay to look at their model simulcasting the NRL, where they have their own commentators, hosts and broadcast graphics. It’s likely it will all follow over to the cricket, and they would be expected to use the talent already on their books first and foremost.

In coverage of previous overseas cricket, they have used names like Brendon Julian, Allan Border and Mark Waugh. They will also need to chase outside their boundaries, with plenty of cricket personalities now looking for a new home.

Nine’s host, Mark Nicholas, along with all their commentators – Shane Warne, Michael Clarke, Ian Chappell and Michael Clarke just to name a few – as well as Ten’s Big Bash League team including names like Adam Gilchrist, Ricky Ponting and Mark Howard will all be up for grabs.

It may also be an opportunity for new broadcasters to be introduced, but all will be revealed in due course.