May 24, 2013

Less cricket on TV? Hallelujah

Why Channel Nine should be applauded for not broadcasting domestic cricket in Australia

If it's summer Down Under, it's wall to wall cricket © Getty Images

I'm not exactly sure, because lawyers arguing over money bores me more than a reply speech to a budget reply speech, but what appears to have happened in the case of Cricket Australia versus Channel Nine is this:

Channel Nine - a broadcaster of Australian cricket since 1977 - doesn't want to show Australian domestic cricket on its television station because apart from the Big Bash League (which Channel Nine doesn't hold the broadcast rights to) domestic cricket doesn't rate enough to broadcast.

Cricket Australia has then said to Channel Nine that when they sold the rights to broadcast its product (cricket), it was on the proviso that Channel Nine would broadcast all of its product, not just the stuff that rates. And with other broadcasters wanting to pay money for the domestic cricket that Channel Nine doesn't show, Channel Nine has reneged on its contract.

Channel Nine, being rather concerned with ratings and money and such, doesn't want to broadcast domestic cricket because no one wants to watch it, an important consideration for a television station. Channel Nine has long had a "first and last" clause in its contract that says they are allowed to see and match any offer by a rival broadcaster.

Cricket Australia then said, sure, but we want someone who will broadcast all of our cricket regardless. There are rival broadcasters who are offering us a lot of money to do that. And if you won't do that, your clause is void.

And Channel Nine said no, it is not void, we think the clause in our contract that says we are allowed to see and to match anyone else's offer is good. And plus, you won't sell us the Big Bash, which is the only domestic cricket people want to watch.

And Cricket Australia said, we think it is not right. You aren't showing a product that others want to give us money for. We want their money. And we will see you in court.

And then Channel Nine said, No, we will see you in court.

And here we are.

I think, anyway.

Anyway. In the interests of saving the court's time, I would suggest to Cricket Australia that they see Channel Nine's point of view. Because domestic one-day cricket is not humanly watchable by anyone but dangerous kooks. Anyone who actually does settle in on a Saturday afternoon to watch domestic one-day cricket has no money to buy the products advertised on Channel Nine because they live in caves, leaving only at night, to fossick for food, and for mates.

Kooks? Friend, there is so much cricket on television during the six months that constitute an Australian "summer of cricket" that it may as well be all the one giant game. The colours and players might change but it's the same contiguous match. Play begins at ten in the morning and ends at ten at night, and repeat, every day of the week from September through March, pausing only on Christmas Day when images of cricketers and their children with Santa are beamed into every home in the country.

Dear sweet Mr Lillee but it's on a lot. It's the 24-hour shopping channel except with cricket. It's a six-month movie marathon showing the same film. Rather than being taken to court for wanting to show less cricket, Channel Nine should be applauded, and given medals, and perhaps even money. Or just medals.

Because it's something so rarely understood by commercial television stations - and Channel Nine in particular - but less is more. It's hard for broadcasters and boards and suits and ties, and the various money-driven stake-holders surrounding the grand old game to understand - but less is more. And there it is.

Look at the British & Irish Lions Tour of Australia. Massive interest. Happens every 12 years. Should they have an Olympic Games or World Cup every six months? All kids love Christmas Day because it comes once a year. There's a build-up. Have Christmas Day every month and see how many kids give a stuff. First few months, sure. By July they'd barely look up. Santa again. Ripper.

There are of course several other factors going on in this case, which you may have deduced have not been assiduously researched by this column. Both parties have several concerns, and one assumes the various suits believe they have a case.

And if you're interested in said case, I'd suggest a fine resource on the global "web" of inter-connected computers called the "internet", a little tool called "Google". Type "Channel Nine" and "Cricket Australia" and "court" into the handy "search engine" and you'll find out all you need to know.

And good luck to you. You dangerous kook

Matt Cleary writes for several Australian sports and travel magazines. He tweets here