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Cricket TV rights fight for Big Bash

By Kim Hagdorn
5 December 2012 01:56PM EST

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TRADITIONAL cricket broadcasters Channel Nine look set to win a significant chunk of Australia’s exciting Big Bash tournament from as early as next summer.

But before Australia’s established cricket broadcasters join the hurly burly of domestic Twenty20 interstate clashes, Nine must beat off a rising challenge for telecast rights from arch rival Channel Seven.

Seven executives are understood to be forming a package in a full-on battle with Nine for Australia’s cricket broadcast rights for up to the next five years.

Even Channell 10 is expected to mount a bid in probably the most active cricket television rights battle in history.

Australia's Big Bash League is expected to grow in appeal even for international audiences, especially through the cricket-mad sub-continent and in particularly India for spin-off rights agreements as the tournament escalates in advertising and audience appeal.

And with a prospective change in established cricket broadcast landscape there could be some new and younger faces heading up commentary.

It is understood that if Nine cover the hectic Big Bash showdowns that long serving popular commentators Richie Benaud, Ian Chappell and Bill Lawry would hand over microphones to a new and more youthful batch of match analysts for the modern day bash and crash forms of cricket.

Nine have perennially been locked in with cricket telecasts since the settlement of Kerry packer's ground-breaking World Series cricket back in 1979.

Any change in annual summer cricket coverage would be the biggest switch since Packer's Nine network took over televising international cricket from the ABC more than three decades ago.

Seven already have crucial rights to broadcast AFL in a shared agreement with Foxtel, the annual ‘summer of tennis’ with the Australian Open in January as well as the popular spring racing carnival in Melbourne, but are believed to be starting their bid at around $650million for five seasons.

The initial bid from Seven is tipped to be too low to win the rights ahead of established broadcasting commitments.

Ironically, Nine is expected to form a joint bid with Foxtel to retain rights for the annual Test and one-day international schedule.

But in forming their allegiance against Seven, Nine want a slice of the exciting Big Bash action which Fox Sports telecast exclusively last summer with record ratings numbers for domestic cricket.

It is looming that Nine will take some of the Big Bash in their agreement with Fox.

Nine want access to telecast some of the inter-city tournament games at weekends.

In a trade-off to get the potentially big rating weekend Big Bash battles it is believed that Fox could telecast mid-week internationals, especially between touring nations in games that don’t involve Australia.

The pay television organisation could generate additional earning and audience potential outside of Australia with telecasts of internationals from within Australia live back into their home nations.

Nine is expected to have an initial first right of response to any alternative rights bid from rivals.

It is understood that Seven executive members are seriously committed in their bid to win cricket telecast rights and have held preliminary planning sessions for commentators and the complicated broadcast and programming issues with their heavy tennis commitments.

The second Big Bash series launches with a Melbourne derby at Etihad Stadium on Friday as Nine and Australian cricket authorities continue discussions on broadcast rights for approaching seasons.

Australia hosts bitter rival England in a highly anticipated five-Test Ashes series next summer as well as the 2015 World Cup which are all expected to fall into the next broadcast rights agreement.

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Dean 6 January 2013 8:23AM

9 and foxtel have the rights to the 2015 cricket world cup in Australia and New Zealand and it is seperate from the current agreement that will be negotiated between the networks