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Seven Boss Wants Tennis Back, Prepared To Ditch Cricket

Seven West Media chief executive James Warburton has confirmed reports that he is gunning after the Australian Open broadcast rights, admitting that if the network were to secure these, it would be at the expense of the cricket rights.

Warburton admits he met with Tennis Australia chief executive Craig Tiley last year, and makes no bones about aggressively trying to secure rights that Seven previously held for four decades.

“Absolutely [we will pursue the tennis]. We had the tennis for decades,” Warburton told SMH.

“It’s no secret that we’re extremely pleased with Test match cricket, but Cricket Australia haven’t delivered on their contract with the Big Bash.

“We’ve got a much better relationship these days…but they have to make fundamental changes to the Big Bash League. They’re finally making the right noises.”

The “right noises” might not be enough. Warburton was firm when asked if Seven could run the tennis and cricket at the same time. “No”, he confirmed.

Seven lost the Australian Open rights in 2018, when Nine outbid them, paying $60 million a year to Tennis Australia to broadcast the grand slam until 2024. In its wake, Seven aggressively went after cricket, securing a deal with Cricket Australia to broadcast test matches, one day-ers, and the Big Bash League.

Warburton has made no secret of his disappointment in the Big Bash League. According to a report by News Corp the BBL attracted an average viewing audience of just 630,000 per match this summer. In early 2016, the league was attracting 1.1 million viewers per game.

Even cricketers aren’t interested. In early 2020, Ricky Ponting lobbied Cricket Australia to shorten the tournament, saying it “does tend to lose a bit of interest when we come out of our Christmas slumber.”

“The last couple of years the tournament has probably just tapered off a little bit,” Ponting said at the time.

“When it was absolutely at its best was when it was probably slightly fewer games and it was still going through the school holidays.

“That’s when we’ve had better attendances and for some reason we seemed to have better games and better tournaments as well.

“After 10 weeks, it’s still a couple of weeks too long. I think you could probably condense it.”

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