Australia news June 13, 2017

Ten woes cloud Big Bash League's future

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Strong television audiences for the BBL and WBBL have been one of the few positives for the Ten Network in recent times © Cricket Australia/Getty Images

The Big Bash League's next broadcast rights deal - and perhaps even its coverage later this year - has been pushed into uncertain waters by a grim financial outlook for its current rights holder, the Ten Network.

Ahead of the final season, before the rights to the BBL are to go to market where it has been expected to earn up to A$40 million (approx US$30.21 million) more per tournament for Cricket Australia, Ten announced on Tuesday that it had requested a temporary trade halt on the Australian share market (ASX).

The request was made after the network was informed that two of its major financial backers, Lachlan Murdoch's investment company Illyria and Bruce Gordon's Birketu, don't intend to renew their financing of the company after the December 23 expiry of the current A$200 million (approx US$151.12 million) loan from the Commonwealth Bank. It is an announcement that increases the likelihood of the network going into receivership, jeopardising its ability to bid for the BBL next year and potentially affecting this summer's coverage.

"Over the weekend, Ten received correspondence from financial advisers to Illyria Pty Limited and Birketu Pty Limited, two of the shareholders which guarantee the company's current credit facility," the company said in a statement to the ASX. "That correspondence confirms that those guarantors do not intend to extend or increase their support for the company's credit facilities beyond the term of the current facility, which expires on 23 December 2017.

"Ten's board is considering the position of the company in light of the position being taken by Illyria and Birketu and the range of restructuring and refinancing initiatives it has underway. Pending these determinations over the coming days, Ten considers that its shares will not be able to trade on an informed basis and, accordingly, requests the trading halt."

Ten had warned back in April that uncertainty over its future financing "may cast significant doubt on the group's ability to continue as a going concern" after the network posted a A$232 million (approx US$175.30 million) loss in the first half of the 2016-17 financial year.

Strong television audiences for the BBL and WBBL have been one of the few positives for the network in recent times, following the signing of a deal with CA in 2013 that was worth A$100 million (approx US$151.12 million) over five years. Due in large part to the quality of Ten's coverage, estimates for the next rights round have tipped the BBL's value to rise to as much as A$300 million (approx US$222.68 million) from 2018 to 2023. However, that figure was predicated on consistent competition in the marketplace.

Nine, the longterm international cricket rights holder, has previously expressed an eagerness to bid for "everything" next year, while the pay-television provider Foxtel is also interested in returning to broadcast matches played in Australia, perhaps via a simulcast arrangement where it could share the cost of broadcast rights with a free-to-air network as is the case in the AFL and NRL.

The figure to be raked in from the next broadcast rights deal is among the areas of uncertainty currently at issue in the pay dispute between CA and the Australian Cricketers Association. CA has argued that it wants to break the fixed revenue-percentage model and provide fixed wages for the players as a result of this uncertainty. However, the Australian Cricketers' Association has argued that shared risk is one of the principles of a partnership that has lasted for two decades.

At the same time, CA is currently on the lookout for a new head of the BBL, after its overseer Anthony Everard was promoted to the board's executive management team as the man in charge of events and leagues. The newly-created position merges some of the responsibilities held by former operations chief Mike McKenna and the ex-head of events Chris Loftus-Hills, both of whom are now working for the new Perth stadium.

Ten's trading halt is to last for 48 hours, or until the network's board makes a further announcement about its future.

Daniel Brettig is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo. @danbrettig

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • SimmoTheAviator on June 17, 2017, 2:37 GMT

    As with many issues that arise in everyday life, this problem could potentially be fixed by looking to The Simpsons (also broadcast on Channel Ten!) for a source of inspiration. Channel Ten shows Neighbours each weeknight, which is still pretty popular in Australia, the U.K. and a few other countries around the world. Why not take some inspiration from the Simpsons episode where Krusty the Clown franchised his show out and created versions of it in different countries around the world? We could have American Neighbours, Indian Neighbours, South African Neighbours... and the franchise fees could keep Ten afloat, thus allowing it to keep the BBL and avoid it falling into the hands of the cringeworthy Channel Nine team by default. Well, either that or, you know, improving homegrown programming content, increasing viewership, improved corporate governance and such...

  •   cricfan69564930 on June 15, 2017, 8:19 GMT

    100 % agree with the first poster about Simulcast by foxtel and a free to air station...or let the free to air broadcaster play it live with delayed highlight packages from foxtel

  • Jose...P on June 15, 2017, 4:10 GMT

    A few things seem to be unclear to many:

    .

    1. Ten Network's problem has nothing to do with Australian cricket in general or BBL in particular. Their problems arise from larger issues, both on their own source of financing, and a few problems with users other than cricket.

    2. It is Ten's entry into cricket broadcasting which really infused real competition. It helped cricket boards to earn higher bids. and viewers started getting something more than usual (arguably 'better'). But competition helped to put 7, 8, 9, Star & the like, on their toes. And, bid for more.

    3. With NO ten in the fray, power will shift to the bidders, who will have their say. And, The total pie available for both ICC & the Broads will get a hit.

    .

    And, lastly, on the pay dispute:

    4. Many are still talking about % of revenue Vs % of profit. Neither exists in CA's plans; NO % ! They just want to cap it (largely). Absolute amounts with NO ups & downs.

  •   Stephen Connell on June 14, 2017, 0:28 GMT

    Channel Ten sinking and Nine waiting to pick up the BBL for a cheap price because there is no other bidders to compete against it. CA price the BBL high but nine says this is what we will pay you take it or leave it. Who are they going to go to? They have no leverage so where to next?

  • Chris_P on June 13, 2017, 21:46 GMT

    @CRICFAN2460986520. Spidercam is so-so for most people, personally I have little time for it. Player mic? They have been using it from the start! Hot spot isn't required for use as there are not any reviews in T20, it's just a 'nicety' & most leagues don't have it anyway. If you think it is 'very poor' please share what you think is better for I have seen a couple that are equal, none better though.

  • RedDirt on June 13, 2017, 21:00 GMT

    CRICFAN2460986520 ON JUNE 13, 2017, 16:00 GMT Spidercam should be outlawed. Talking to cricketers when they are batting is just wrong and affects their performance, hotspot is the only thing worth viewing but we don't need to see it. As long as the third umpire is neutral and professional we don't need to see it.

  • Jono Makim on June 13, 2017, 19:01 GMT

    @srini, yes, there are only 3 major networks, Ten, Nine and Seven. If Ten are out of business and Seven aren't interested in hosting the BBL (they broadcast the tennis in summer) then CA will have no bidding competition for the BBL rights.

  • cricfan2460986520 on June 13, 2017, 16:00 GMT

    I think TEN's broadcast is very poor .They don't use high quality technology like spidercam,hotspot,player mic etc. Moreover they don't have exprience of broadcasting T20 leage.

  • ELECTRIC_LOCO_WAP4'S_SECOND_FATHER on June 13, 2017, 13:54 GMT

    one more problem for Australian cricket !

  • Ms.Cricket on June 13, 2017, 13:31 GMT

    Channel 10 had a much better cricket commentary team than Channel Nine post-Richie Benaud. If Channel Nine pick up BBL then audiences would have to put up with that inane team!

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