SYDNEY, (Reuters) – Cricket Australia has signed a new six-year broadcast agreement worth A$1.2 billion ($935 million), the board said yesterday, allaying fears of a financial blow in the wake of last month’s ball-tampering scandal in South Africa.
Broadcaster Seven West Media and pay television company Foxtel, which is jointly owned by News Corp and Telstra Corp, secured the media rights, taking over from long-term cricket broadcaster Nine Entertainment.
The deal was negotiated amid the fallout from the test match in South Africa during which Australia’s players hatched a plan to tamper with the ball, only to be caught by cameras.
Three players, including then Captain Steve Smith, have been suspended.
Cricket Australia (CA) Chief Executive James Sutherland said the issue of restoring the team’s reputation had been discussed.
“We’ve obviously got some rebuilding to do, but it is something that we’ve spoken to both Fox and Seven about,” Sutherland told reporters in Sydney on Friday.
“We are delighted to have them as partners; they are committed to us rebuilding that trust and confidence, not just for Cricket Australia as an organisation and cricket as a sport but also through our players.”
CA said in a statement on Friday that the broadcast and digital deal was worth A$1.18 billion over six years. It was not immediately clear how the figure was calculated.
Seven said in a statement to shareholders that its share of the annual cash rights cost was A$75 million. Shares in broadcaster Seven were up more than 12 percent on Friday, while Nine’s share price was flat.
The new deal, which includes significant coverage of the Big Bash Twenty20 league, women’s cricket and digital streaming rights to Foxtel, replaces a five-year, A$590 million contract struck in 2013 that gave broadcast rights to free-to-air stations Nine and Ten Network.
Sporting events remain a strong lure of television audiences for under-pressure Australian broadcasters which are being squeezed by a shift to digital advertising.
However, with less money to spend, broadcasters have also been put under pressure by shareholders to justify the financial benefit of obtaining television rights.
Until Friday, Nine was the assumed cricket broadcaster, with the network holding the media rights for more than 40 years due to a relationship with the sport brokered by the late media mogul Kerry Packer.
Packer founded World Series Cricket in the 1970s, a popular rebel competition to cricket’s then establishment.
Cricket Australia acknowledged Nine’s contribution to the sport on Friday.
“Our thanks go to Channel Nine, who for more than 40 years has broadcast international cricket at a world-renowned standard – and in so doing has done more to promote our sport than any organisation in Australian cricket history,” Sutherland said in a statement.
While Nine will no longer be Australia’s cricket broadcaster, it will, from 2020, televise the Australian Open tennis event under a deal announced last month.
In doing so, it replaces Seven, which has been Australia’s premier tennis broadcaster for more than four decades.
($1 = 1.2829 Australian dollars)