15 Feb

Seven West Media remains “extremely dissatisfied” with Cricket Australia but will wait until after next month’s hearing in the Federal Court to determine whether it retains the rights to next summer’s Ashes series and Big Bash League. 

The free-to-air network has two cases running concurrently against CA in its bid to achieve a discount on the A$82 million (US$63.8m) it will pay this summer for the rights to its share of the international season and domestic Twenty20 matches. 

Seven’s chief executive James Warburton told The Age and Sydney Morning Herald on Monday (15 February) that his network would continue to fight for a reduction. “I think as a network we’re extremely dissatisfied with Cricket Australia, with the administration,” he said. 

The two parties are expecting within a week to have a final call from independent arbitrator Justin Jameson on whether Seven deserves to be offered a major reduction, after the network lodged papers last year arguing the quality of action this summer, in terms of overall scheduling and on-field play, was not what it had signed up for. CA had already offered a 20 per cent discount - a bid rejected by Seven. 

CA and Seven are also due to extend their fight through the Federal Court from March 15, where a pre-discovery hearing before Justice Paul Anastassiou will determine whether Seven is granted access to documents and correspondence CA had with state governments, the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) and with cricket’s pay-television arm, Foxtel. 

Seven argues the BCCI pressured CA into having the original schedule changed, meaning the international summer began with white-ball matches exclusive to Foxtel rather than the Test series, which Seven shares with Foxtel. 

Warburton has previously sounded out rival networks about taking all, or part, of the cricket rights, for Seven still has three seasons remaining on its A$450 million (US$ 350.3m) deal, including what would be its maiden Ashes campaign - a major money spinner - next summer. 

He again did not rule out cutting ties with CA once this summer is done despite CA claiming, in some cases, record ratings. This summer’s four-Test series against India was up 5% on the 2018-19 tour. Nine Entertainment Co, owner of this masthead and which has since launched Stan Sports, last year indicated it was keeping a close eye on the cricket spat and could be interested in regaining the sport it broadcast for 40 years. 

Seven announced a net profit of A$116.4 million (US$90,6m) for the fiscal half year. “There’s nothing included in any of the forecast cost numbers [about a cricket discount] and that includes the Ashes. We haven’t banked any savings from the cricket - savings are upside to what was disclosed today,” Seven chief financial officer Jeff Howard said. 

CA employed the “force majeure” clause in its contract with Seven to argue the COVID-19 pandemic that forced the schedule changes was an act of God, but Jameson has scrutinised this. While Seven admits CA had done a good job in ensuring the Indian series against India went ahead in a biosecure bubble, the fact that there were no Tests in November cost the network millions of dollars in lost revenue.   

John Stephenson 


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