A looming broadcast conflict has been averted after the Seven and Nine networks agreed terms to allow the latter to air the 2019 Australian Open tennis - a year earlier than originally scheduled. This leaves Seven free to air Tests and Big Bash League matches in high definition on its main channel.
Cricket Australia's AUD 1.18 billion television and digital rights deal with Fox Sports and Seven, announced in April, had meant that Seven held the rights for both cricket and tennis for the summer of 2018-19, with a contractual obligation to air the first Grand Slam of the year on the network's primary channel.
However, after more than a month of negotiations, Seven has agreed to on-sell the final year of its tennis rights to Nine for AUD 48.5 million, meaning the Test matches against Sri Lanka and the BBL matches also scheduled to clash with the Australian Open will not have to compete for airtime with tennis on the same network. CA is understood to have been prepared to accept secondary billing in the first year of their six-year deal with Seven, which has unveiled Ricky Ponting, Damien Fleming and Michael Slater as commentators.
For the first time in the history of Australian cricket, two of three men's formats - ODIs and Twenty20 internationals - will be hidden behind a paywall. Nine had effectively exited the contest for rights to cricket in Australia when it revealed a five-year, AUD 300 million deal with Tennis Australia to broadcast the Open and other lead-up tournaments.
Hugh Marks, the Nine chief executive, underlined the reasons for the network's decision in confirming the deal to gain the tennis rights a year early. He had been seeking to reduce spending on sports rights, after the network parted with more than AUD 500 million for the rights to international cricket from 2013-18.
"There's an air of excitement at Nine about being the new home of tennis, so to be able to start our new deal a year early brings us all much delight," he said. "As I said back in March, the timing of tennis and the audience demographics it delivers are a perfect fit for Nine and its advertisers. We're also mighty pleased to have been able to settle on a price for the additional year that is consistent with our original offer to Seven."
CA on Monday announced it had secured another major sponsor in the form of the digital real estate seller Domain, which is majority-owned by Fairfax Media. The four-year deal makes for an intriguing mixture of partnerships given that Fox Sports, provider of the bulk of the broadcast rights money, is owned by Fairfax's media rival News Corp.
The Domain deal, alongside that with Alinta Energy, will account for the prime presenting and advertising space at Australian cricket grounds over the summer. They were both signed in the wake of the financial firm Magellan's withdrawal from a previous deal with CA as part of the fallout from the Newlands ball tampering scandal.
"Domain is delighted to begin a partnership with Cricket Australia. Our aligned audience strategies in mobile and content represent a unique opportunity for both brands," Domain's chief editorial and marketing officer Melina Cruickshank said. "We believe the 'spirit of cricket' is resilient and look forward to the growth opportunities this partnership will provide."
A new executive is set to join CA in August, with the recruitment of Karina Keisler as executive general manager for public affairs, government relations and infrastructure. Keisler will replace Mark O'Neill, whose contract expired at the end of March. She had previously held roles with Telstra, Vodafone and most recently the NBN corporation, which has faced numerous battles over its rollout of the national broadband network.