Channel Seven‘s embarrassment of sporting riches looks set to immediately bite them on the ass, after Channel Nine pulled out of negotiations to take the Australian Open broadcast off their hands this coming January.
Seven has a large problem looming in early 2019, after the network – in conjunction with Fox Sports – spirited away the TV broadcasting rights to the cricket, in what was the biggest shake-up of cricket in Australia since Kerry Packer chucked an industry-rattling global tantrum in the 1970s.
In response, Nine whisked away the rights to Australian Open in a deal worth about $60 million per year, in a contract that covers the open from 2020 until 2024.
However, that left Seven with one final year to run on its deal with Tennis Australia, meaning the network is suddenly saddled with the responsibility of airing not only this year’s Australian Open, but also Australia’s summer of cricket.
The 2018 Open is scheduled to take place between January 14th and January 27th next year. During that time, Australia’s first test against Sri Lanka is also scheduled; crucially, the dates for that game overlap with the all-important final games of the tournament, beginning on January 24th. Even more crucially, the Test against Sri Lanka will be a day-night match, meaning playing times for the Test directly clash with key timeslots for the Tennis finals.
Seven had sought to offload the rights for the tennis to Channel Nine a year early, but Nine has today withdrawn from negotiations with Seven West Media in that regard. Nine officials stated they made an offer to Seven that was $10 million above the network’s current deal with Tennis Australia, but Seven rejected it.
That leaves Seven with the unenviable task of having to find a way to broadcast both major events.
Though, quite obviously, one could be tucked away on a multi-channel, Tennis Australia officials have in the past asserted that they expect the tennis to be shown on a main free-to-air station. Cricket Australia officials too would be angling for their product to land on the main channel.
The dual major sports broadcasts is expected to represent a major financial loss for Seven, despite the increased viewership and advertising revenue; sports broadcasts such as those are expensive to put on. Meanwhile Nine, who will not air any major sport this coming summer, suddenly has a war chest of funds to invest in other programming.
It’s gonna be a weird old time on the teev next year, mates.