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Struggling Network Vs Media Giants Cricket Bosses Face Dilemma

Cricket Australia is facing a real dilemma today, do they dump the Seven Network and Foxtel as their long-time broadcast partners and run the risk of losing tens of millions in media exposure for cricket, or take the money from a bottom end TV network, who struggled with their Melbourne Cup coverage and soccer broadcasts on their Paramount platform.

US entertainment giant and Network Ten owner Paramount whose TV network news service in Australia rarely rates are believed to have offered A$1.5B to get the media rights to Cricket in Australia including, Test matches, one-day internationals and the Big Bash League.

The dilemma for Cricket Australia is whether they can afford to offend News Corp the major shareholders in Foxtel and the owners of Australia’s most widely read daily sports publications including The Daily Telegraph, Courier Mail, The Advertiser and The Australian as well as the Seven Networks News which is Australia’s most popular nightly TV News network for the sake of a deal with the Ten Network and Paramount.

Cricket ratings have been falling and both Foxtel and Seven the current holders of the Cricket rights know the value of what Cricket can deliver have refused to match the money being splashed around by the US owned network.

Cricket Australia has given media companies until today (Thursday) to submit best and final offers for the rights package, which begins in 2025.

Both the News Corp managed Foxtel and Seven are refusing to match the cash offer from Paramount claiming that the additional information marketing coverage that they deliver every year for Cricket Australia is worth millions and should be taken into consideration in picking their broadcast partner.

For networks Cricket is seen as the summer filler between football seasons for Foxtel and Seven.

Another issue for Cricket Australia is whether consumers will actually watch cricket on a network that struggled to deliver ratings.

Paramount and the Ten Network have the rights to the Melbourne Cup. This year almost 350,000 fewer Australians tuned in to watch the Melbourne Cup compared to last year, with the Paramount Ten coverage attracting the lowest volume of viewers since records began two decades ago.

345,000 less people watched Channel 10’s live telecast of the “race that stops the nation”, with 1.35 million viewers tuning in, compared to 1.695 million last year, according to OzTAM figures.

This is a major concern for Cricket Australia who cannot afford poor coverage for a sport that is struggling to compete for viewers in Australia especially with their Big Bash events.

Seven, is the top-rated free-to-air network, and Foxtel, which is owned by News Corp have the bandwidth and media muscle to generate viewers unlike the Paramount who are going to have to splash millions generating interest in Cricket broadcasts.

Recently executives from Seven, Foxtel and CA met to discuss the dilemma, with ChannelNews told that CA are “Are looking for a way” to retain a deal with Seven and Foxtel despite a lower financial return.

Foxtel and Seven bosses sign joint AFL deal.

Currently the Seven Network is taking legal action against Cricket Australia with some observers claiming that this action could be dropped as part of the deal.

Seven commenced actions in the Federal Court claiming that they wanted compensation for “multiple quality and standard breaches” by CA.

The bulk of these alleged breaches arose from the quality of the men’s Big Bash League (BBL), which Seven unfavourably compared to the Indian Premier League (IPL).

Seven wants to stream cricket on their Seven Plus network a move that Foxtel is believed to have agreed to in an effort to deliver a combined Seven Foxtel deal.

Nine Media in the Sydney Morning Herald claims that outgoing CA chair Lachlan Henderson has said publicly he believes cricket is undervalued in the broadcast market, but a range of factors is limiting the money on offer from Seven and Foxtel.

These include lucrative deals with the AFL and NBC Universal, the poor ratings performance of the Big Bash League (which forms the majority of the current rights fee), and a softer advertising market.

If Seven and Foxtel do not budge, it means CA will need to decide whether to take the extra cash and end a long-standing partnership with Foxtel, whose parent company News Corp owns The Daily Telegraph, The Australian and The Herald Sun. The alternative would be to remain with the incumbents for less cash. CA is also currently in a bitter legal stoush with Seven in the Federal Court.

Paramount has recently renewed their rights to the Melbourne Cup with the five-year deal worth $200M to organisers.

They also have a deal for the struggling A-League and W-League soccer matches, and a separate agreement to broadcast the Matildas and Socceroos matches.

Ratings for the Test series between Australia and the West Indies have sat at around 900,000 per night for matches in Perth and Adelaide across Seven and Foxtel and are likely to have climbed over the 1 million marks when Kayo and Foxtel streaming figures are added.

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