Foxtel revolutionised rugby league on TV, can they do the same for cricket?

David Lord Columnist

By David Lord, David Lord is a Roar Expert

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    When Kerry Packer, Richie Benaud, and Tony Greig combined to take international cricket television coverage away from the ABC, the grand old game received a life-saving injection.

    Now Channel Nine is under the pump from Fox after 40 years dominating the airwaves with a reported offer of over a billion dollars for live coverage of Tests and limited overs for the next five years.

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    Both must be covered by free-to-air by law, with Seven and Ten in the mix, cutting out Nine altogether.

    That should thankfully see the end of Mark Nicholas and Michael Clarke from our screens, but what will happen to stalwarts like Ian Chappell – one of the big movers in the formation of World Series Cricket in 1977 – Mark Taylor, Ian Healy, Michael Slater, Shane Warne, and the cameo appearances of the one and only Bill Lawry?

    Bill Lawry

    Bill Lawry is an icon. (AAP Image/Tracey Nearmy)

    That could well be commentating carnage depending on the decision makers at Fox, who have already buried Nine’s rugby league coverage with its around-the-clock dedicated channel.

    So who could turn up at Fox?

    Try Adam Gilchrist, Ricky Ponting, Brendan Julian, Allan Border, Mark Waugh, Brett Lee, Geoff Lawson, and for comic relief Kerry O’Keeffe and David ‘Bumbles’ Lloyd.

    Other overseas contenders loom as Michael Holding, Kevin Pietersen, Michael Vaughan, and Graeme Smith.

    But the frontman must be an Australian, the Nine coverage lost a lot of clout when Englishman Nicholas was in the chair after the death of Richie Benaud.

    One thing for certain, Fox will make it a cricket revolution, as it has with rugby league.

    First up, no ads during rugby league play, while Nine still bang the ads in at injury breaks, and after a try has been scored.

    But it’s the on-air personnel that will make the difference. Fox’s league coverage is a battalion strength.

    Headed by Matty Johns and Yvonne Sampson – both brilliant – the names keep coming with callers Wayne Smith, Andrew Voss, Matt Russell, and Brenton Speed.

    Then there’s the massive and vastly experienced support crew, including Mark Gasnier, Mick Ennis, Greg ‘Bandy’ Alexander, Gorden Tallis, Danny Buderus, Mal Meninga, and Steve Roach – to name but a few.

    And for the first time, Fox has broken ground with a team of experienced and knowledgeable rugby league women in Lara Pitt, Jess Yates, Hannah Hollis, and Megan Barnard.

    Channel Nine’s crew has been swamped, even though the station still has the exclusive rights to Origin, and the NRL grand final.

    Headed by Ray Warren for four decades, there’s Ray Hadley, Mat Thomson, and Joel Caine calling, with Phil Gould, Brad Fittler, Peter Sterling, Wally Lewis, Darren Lockyer, Paul Vautin, Andrew Johns, and James Bracey.

    It’s a daily uphill struggle for what was once the top rugby league station, but at least Nine is still in the fight.

    If the Fox deal is finalised, Nine’s cricket is finished after 40 years of dedication and its own form of revolution.

    Never forget, Channel Nine saved cricket from itself and turned the best players from used rank amateurs into highly-paid professionals.

    Pity some of the cricketers abused that hard-won revolution that was set up by Kerry Packer, Richie Benaud and Tony Greig.

    David Lord
    David Lord

    David Lord was deeply involved in two of the biggest sporting stories - World Series Cricket in 1977 and professional rugby in 1983. After managing Jeff Thomson and Viv Richards during WSC, in 1983 David signed 208 of the best rugby players from Australia, New Zealand, Fiji, England, Ireland, Scotland, Wales and France to play an international pro circuit. The concept didn't get off the ground, but it did force the IRB to get cracking and bring in the World Rugby Cup, now one of the world's great sporting spectacles

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    The Crowd Says (43)

    • April 13th 2018 @ 8:21am
      Paul said | April 13th 2018 @ 8:21am | ! Report

      David, when ever a monopoly is created, someone will take advantage of it and that’s exactly what happened with 9’s coverage of both the cricket and the League. Their coverage is boring and I know many people, myself included, who listen to the cricket on the wireless while watching the coverage.

      The Fox League coverage has a lot of youth and energy about it, apart from Warren Smith’s insistence on sounding like an American ( he’s really annoying). The guys behind the microphones haven’t been out of the game for long, so they have some good thoughts. They also don’t act like the “own” the game, which is how Gould and co come across.

      I for one won’t be sad to hear Rabbits call his last game. He and Channel 9 passed their “use by” date some years ago.

    • April 13th 2018 @ 8:34am
      jameswm said | April 13th 2018 @ 8:34am | ! Report

      David I don’t think as many people will miss Mark Taylor, Ian Healy, Michael Slater and Shane Warne as commentators as you seem to think.

      Foxtel will for one thing involve women a lot more. Lisa Sthalekar is one who will come in I reckon. Fox have a strong policy of inclusion. How often is a woman in the blokey Ch 9 commentary box?

      As for the main guy – don’t see why BJ won’t be doing it. He’s perfectly fine. And as you say we get some Skull for light relief – he does do some Foxtel work.

      • April 13th 2018 @ 10:51pm
        Last Straw said | April 13th 2018 @ 10:51pm | ! Report

        Agree! I hope none of the Nine commentary team get hired, especially Shane Warne – lucky he could bowl a ball because he isn’t much of a role model in any other way and I would prefer not to reward his poor behaviour by making him a plastic TV personality.

        Also, would be great to see and hear Gerald Wheatley on Foxsports covering cricket.

    • April 13th 2018 @ 8:35am
      JohnB said | April 13th 2018 @ 8:35am | ! Report

      So after wading through the ad for Fox, it still isn’t clear where the cricket will be on free to air?

    • April 13th 2018 @ 8:49am
      no one in particular said | April 13th 2018 @ 8:49am | ! Report

      Great move to put the BBL on Fox. One way to kill a popular sport is to put it on Fox, excluding 70% of the population from watching it.

      Fox’s league coverage is very average

      • April 13th 2018 @ 9:44am
        KenoathCarnt said | April 13th 2018 @ 9:44am | ! Report

        What a joke aye how will this possibly help cricket.

      • April 13th 2018 @ 10:27am
        Bakkies said | April 13th 2018 @ 10:27am | ! Report

        The ACB need to make up the shortfall.

        In other news it has been confirmed that Renshaw will replace Bancroft at Somerset.

    • Roar Guru

      April 13th 2018 @ 8:49am
      The Bush said | April 13th 2018 @ 8:49am | ! Report

      Sorry David, I can’t work this out; you admit that tests and ODIs have to be on FTA – why can’t it be Fox and Nine like the League?

      And as jameswm notes, I don’t think people will miss Slater, Healy and co any more than they will Nicholas and Clarke. And if they employ KP I’ll be muting it just like I do now.

      • Roar Guru

        April 13th 2018 @ 10:08am
        Cadfael said | April 13th 2018 @ 10:08am | ! Report

        Nine has signed up to call the tennis so that put them out of it so it will be Fox and 7/10/Aunty or SBS.

        • Roar Guru

          April 13th 2018 @ 12:47pm
          The Bush said | April 13th 2018 @ 12:47pm | ! Report

          I see. Thanks for that.

    • Roar Guru

      April 13th 2018 @ 9:00am
      Chris Kettlewell said | April 13th 2018 @ 9:00am | ! Report

      It’s hard to see how this can work as well as it does for football codes. Compare to something like Rugby League and it’s quite a different scenario. Rugby League never had all their matches broadcast on free to air. Even before Fox came along it was only ever one Friday night game and one Sunday afternoon game that got broadcast. That means Fox Sports comes in and with nothing being lost on free-to-air TV they can offer lots extra by showing every match live. Without anything changing on the FTA coverage, they still had lots of extra content, not just “better commentators”.

      With cricket, it’s already ALL on FTA. The only thing that isn’t on FTA TV is the Sheffield Shield. And I’d be surprised if that’s Foxtel’s big seller, “come watch all the Shield matches live”. So unless we are about to face a situation where most Australian’s can no longer watch most of the cricket live on TV, then all we have is two directly competing broadcasts.

      You say that tests and ODI’s are protected by law as needing to be on FTA. So Fox Sports can’t have any exclusivity over them, meaning that paying a big monthly fee just to have “better commentators” seems a big stretch. People who currently have Foxtel anyway might choose to watch the Fox coverage, but Foxtel’s reason’s for paying Billions have to be to pick up more subscribers, not just to give more content to people who are already paying them for other things. If those are protected, then what’s left? BBL? Surely CA aren’t going to shoot themselves in the foot by taking the BBL off FTA TV. It’s become a summer holidays institution in such a short time. While Fox may offer them money, it’s hard to see losing BBL off FTA TV not just resulting in lots less people paying attention to it.

      So basically, I think the comparison to the NRL is very simplistic. They are such very different beasts. You don’t have a comp with lots of teams playing a full round each week where FTA shows a couple of games and pay-TV the rest like football comps have. So it’s really hard to see a situation which is both beneficial to Fox and the consumer. Either it’s not viable for them, or it’s a big loss for us.

      • April 13th 2018 @ 9:19am
        Matt said | April 13th 2018 @ 9:19am | ! Report

        CA haven’t shot themselves in the foot. Ten offered say 750 million for the fives years. Seven offered 900 million. Fox offered 1 Billion dollars. Tell me how taking the offer from Fox is shooting themselves in the foot? They have gone to market and taken the highest offer.

        • Roar Guru

          April 13th 2018 @ 10:52pm
          Chris Kettlewell said | April 13th 2018 @ 10:52pm | ! Report

          Sure, they have more money for the next five years. But after 5 years worth of decline in cricket the next one will be worth a hell of a lot less!

      • Roar Guru

        April 13th 2018 @ 9:22am
        JamesH said | April 13th 2018 @ 9:22am | ! Report

        It sounds like only some BBL games will be on FTA going forward. Not sure about the ratio.

      • Roar Guru

        April 13th 2018 @ 9:39am
        JamesH said | April 13th 2018 @ 9:39am | ! Report

        Okay, I did some quick research (and I mean very quick, so I possibly overlooked something). I don’t think it is strictly true to say that tests in Australia have to be shown on FTA TV.

        Under s115 of the Broadcasting Services Act, the Minister may publish notice of events that should be broadcast on FTA TV. The current notice (Oct 2017) lists all of Australia’s home tests and limited overs matches: https://www.legislation.gov.au/Details/F2017C00987

        However, there is a catch. An event specified in a notice by the Minister is automatically removed 2,016 hours (84 days) prior to the relevant event unless the Minister declares before that time that the event continues to be a notified event (i.e. is still an event that should be shown on FTA TV). The Minister can only make that declaration if he believes that at least one national or commercial broadcaster has NOT had a reasonable opportunity to acquire the TV rights to the event.

        That last part is a bit hard to interpret but I think if the FTA channels knock back a reasonable chance to acquire the TV rights then Fox can jump in. Nine has knocked back the international summer of cricket because it can’t afford the rights any more, so Seven has apparently made a joint bid with Fox. All that seems clear is that the tests will still be on FTA. There are conflicting reports about limited overs matches, while the BBL will still be at least partly on Ten.

        BSA can be found here: https://www.legislation.gov.au/Details/C2009C00040

      • April 13th 2018 @ 10:03am
        Mark said | April 13th 2018 @ 10:03am | ! Report

        I don’t think it’s right to say cricket is all on FTA. The domestic international season is, but cricket played outside of Australia no longer exists on FTA, and hasn’t for some time.

        Fox will provide a pretty comprehensive offering for cricket fans. All Australian internationals, home and abroad. IPL, England and South Africa tests as well.

        • Roar Pro

          April 13th 2018 @ 12:21pm
          Barry & Zac said | April 13th 2018 @ 12:21pm | ! Report

          Under the Broadcasting Services Act, Section 7(2), All Ashes matches MUST be on FTA TV no matter what country they are in.

          • April 13th 2018 @ 4:07pm
            Mark said | April 13th 2018 @ 4:07pm | ! Report

            So long as a FTA network actually bids for the rights. There’s not much interest in the away Ashes from FTA.

            • April 14th 2018 @ 7:10am
              bazza200 said | April 14th 2018 @ 7:10am | ! Report

              Ashes overseas will be on 9 locked in

      • April 13th 2018 @ 10:52am
        Bakkies said | April 13th 2018 @ 10:52am | ! Report

        Chris the Wallabies ‘domestic’ tests are televised together by Foxsports and Channel 10. Foxsports being able to televise live Wallabies tests was a godsend as in the AFL states Ch 7 often put the games on at midnight.

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