Pay TV company Foxtel and Network Ten were the two broadcasters that once made the Big Bash League one of the most valuable propositions in Australian sport.
As Paramount, the parent company of Ten, continues to lead the bidding for Cricket Australia’s (CA) next broadcast deal, Foxtel could be forced to work with its former rival if it wishes to keep cricket in its summer suite for viewers.
A meeting between Foxtel and Paramount executives last month generated fresh talk that the pay-TV company is considering an alternate reality to working with the cricket’s incumbent free-to-air television partner, Seven.
Foxtel was CA’s domestic rights holder when the BBL launched in 2011, and played a pivotal role in growing the profile of the tournament before the governing body sold the rights to Ten for around $20 million per season in 2013. That was then spun off into a huge rights uplift with Seven and Foxtel in 2018.
While it is ultimately up to CA to decide on which company it partners with, Foxtel (and its streaming service Kayo Sports) face the risk of losing all broadcast rights unless they can convince an alternative free-to-air network that there is a benefit to sharing some matches.
Nine Entertainment Co, the owner of this masthead, and Network Ten have both submitted bids for the rights for all the content being offered by Cricket Australia and do not need to work with Foxtel, given they own their own paywalled products – Stan and Paramount.
Seven is the only free-to-air network without a streaming service and has allowed Foxtel to complement its offering in previous deals. Seven, which is suing Cricket Australia for an alleged failure to deliver quality Big Bash League matches, has bid to retain its coverage of Test cricket but is already looking elsewhere. Seven boss James Warburton confirmed reports from this masthead last week, when he publicly announced he was actively engaging lower-tier sports as an alternative to summer cricket.
And after two rounds of formal bidding, Paramount is near the front of the queue on a dollar basis. That leaves Foxtel in a tricky position. If Paramount ends up securing exclusivity on all rights, it leaves Foxtel – a long-term partner of the cricket – without a tier-one summer sport.
Cricket Australia and its chairman Lachlan Henderson are keeping options open for now. CA’s rights subcommittee is led by the board director Richard Freudenstein, a former chief executive of Foxtel, who was also instrumental in the International Cricket Council’s recent US$3 billion deal with Disney Star for global tournaments between 2023 and 2027.
Sources with knowledge of negotiations say Henderson has met with current and potential stakeholders, including Foxtel boss Patrick Delany, and Nine Entertainment Co chairman Peter Costello, according to people familiar with the matter. He has not met with Seven West Media chairman Kerry Stokes, who did not attend the cricket Test in Perth. Sydney Morning Herald