Aussie cricket in crisis as Seven pulls out of broadcast deal

Channel 7 has started proceedings to pull out of its deal with Cricket Australia.

The network signed a $450 million deal in 2018 as it pinched the free-to-air broadcast rights from Channel 9 after a 40-year stranglehold but now wants out of its contract.

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The Daily Telegraph exclusively revealed Seven notified CA this week of its intentions to cancel the remainder of its deal, which has four more years left to run.

The bombshell development comes after Seven CEO James Warburton launched a stunning attack on CA last month, calling it the “most incompetent administration I’ve ever worked with”.

The Sydney Morning Herald reports Seven has officially notified CA of its issues with the calendar and will not make its next $25m broadcast payment, due on Tuesday. But the sport’s governing body remains hopeful of finding a resolution.

“Cricket Australia remains in ongoing discussions with the Seven Network about delivering a compelling summer of cricket,” a CA spokesman said.

“CA is committed to fulfilling its contractual obligations to all its partners this season.”

At the crux of Seven’s gripes is the upcoming Big Bash League (BBL) season, which it argues will be devalued because of the lack of availability of international stars. The need for Australian players to spend longer in national-team hubs because of COVID-19 and a bustling international schedule are some of the reasons the BBL will be without the sport’s biggest names Down Under — something Seven is filthy about.

Warburton said CA was in danger of breaching its contract because it won’t produce a product worthy of what his network is paying, suggesting Seven had grounds to walk away from the deal.

“We are forced to consider all our options including terminating the contract, and we have put them on notice,” Warburton told The Daily Telegraph in August.

“This is not an acceptable product, and we will not support the season. Cricket Australia have an obligation to deliver a competition of no lesser standard than the past.

“‘Don’t worry,’ they say. ‘We will deliver a full BBL season. We’ve got good news. We can one hundred per cent tell you who can’t play because we know they are in a hub we’ve created for our international white ball games. The only problem is we actually have no idea who will play the BBL’.

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Steve Smith may not be seen on Seven this summer.Source:Getty Images

“How stupid to schedule international cricket against the BBL and drain the resources of a competition already under pressure. It’s a joke, and it rips off the fans.

“We paid a huge price and were promised the world. There is an obligation to deliver the best quality to the broadcasters.

“It’s the most incompetent administration I’ve ever worked with, with no appointed full time chief executive officer at a time when the sport needs strong leadership to steer through these extraordinary times.”

Reacting to the news of Seven’s intent to terminate its deal, former Australian spinner Brad Hogg tweeted: “How can this happen? Santa Clause delivered the perfect present for CA in 2011. The Big Bash was the product for the Christmas holidays. Hope this gets rectified ASAP.”

If Seven does pull out, cricket could be left without a free-to-air broadcast partner for this summer, which features a blockbuster Test series against India.

However, Seven’s strongarm tactics may also be seen as a way of forcing a discount on the $82m it pays CA each year — similar to how Channel 9 scored a better deal with its NRL broadcast rights after blasting the league during the coronavirus pandemic this year.

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Seven’s threat comes shortly after CA’s executive general manager of fan engagement Anthony Everard defended the quality and depth of the BBL — even without the most famous Australian names.

“The involvement of whether it would be international players or even the Australian players has never been the be-all and end-all of the success of the BBL,” Everard told the Sydney Morning Herald. “Almost its best kept secret has been uncovering the new generation of stars.

“Generally speaking it clearly resonates very strongly with families over summer particularly in school holidays and we’re very comfortable with the trajectory. Our commitment to the full home-and-away season is very much in place.”

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