Why Nobody Can Really Afford To Show Cricket On TV Anymore

All those camera angles don’t come cheap. Nor do the salaries
of the former cricket captains telling you how good it was in
their day.

So can Channel 9 afford to keep broadcasting cricket? According
to a series of reports in Fairfax Media this week, it
can not.

On Wednesday, it emerged that Nine could be losing up to $40
million a year on its cricket coverage. Here’s what UBS media
analyst Eric Choi wrote in a note to clients:

“The existing cricket deal costs Nine circa $100 million per
annum. We estimate the existing deal likely only generates
gross revenues of $60-$70 million.

We think it would seem logical for Nine to enter negotiations
with the following mindset: i) More cricket content at no
additional cost, or ii) to step away from the cricket

So there you have it. An analyst with a leading investment bank
has pretty much raised the umpire’s finger and dismissed Nine
from the crease if Nine can’t get a better deal. So does Nine
accept the umpire’s verdict? Unlikely.

Channel 9 is of course synonymous with cricket. It was Nine
boss Kerry Packer who revolutionised not just cricket coverage
but the game itself with World Series Cricket in the 1970s.
Nine gave us Bill Lawry, the late Tony Greig and the late
Richie Benaud. These people all transcended their craft.

GREG WOOD via Getty Images
The Nine commentators observe a minute’s silence in memory of
Tony Greig in 2013.

But cricket on Nine has become stale. If you’ve never read the
all-time takedown of its cricket coverage
published two years ago in The Guardian, it’s time you did.

And while Nine’s international cricket coverage calcified, Ten
snapped up the Big Bash rights in 2013 for a paltry $20 million
per season, and freshened cricket coverage with everything from
female commentators to less stodgy work apparel.

Scott Barbour via Getty
Gilly, Punter and Flem.

Meanwhile, under its existing five-year deal, Nine continues to
shell out $90 million plus each year for its suite of
international cricket, which includes Tests and the
increasingly poor-rating One-Dayers.

Nine’s director of sport Tom Malone said last year the network
wants “everything” in the next rights deal, which will be
negotiated in 2018. That means Tests, One-Dayers, Big Bash, the
lot. There was speculation earlier this year the entire deal
could be worth $800 million over five years.

The actual figure will almost certainly be much lower than
that, and here’s why.

Advertising revenues in commercial television have dropped
rapidly in recent years. Channel Ten has financial issues,
which mean it may not bid at all, while Seven has other eggs in
its sporting basket which includes AFL and the Olympic and
Commonwealth Games.

With anti-siphoning laws protecting cricket (for now) from
being taken off free-to-air TV, Nine may end up as the only
bidder for cricket. As Fairfax concisely put it:

“Without competitive tension, Cricket Australia faces an
auction with just one bidder. Therein lies a disaster for any
vendor needing a sale.”

A disaster indeed.

The glass half empty scenario here is a national body facing
reduced TV rights revenue (which would have all sorts of
flow-ons). Meanwhile TV viewers could be stuck with the same
old, same old, across all three cricket formats — after
briefly being tantalised by the fresher, friendlier, less
insider/clubby vibe of Ten.


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