There comes a major shock for Cricket Australia as their free-to-air television broadcaster channel seven has filed a plea in the Federal Court of Australia to terminate their A$82 million-a-year broadcasting agreement with Cricket Australia due to multiple quality & standards breaches.
The move taken by the Channel escalates the battle between the board & Channel which is on since 2020 following the onset of COVID-19. Even the owner of the Channel Seven released a statement on Thursday confirming their move of filing a plea against Cricket Australia in Federal court if Australia.
“Seven West Media Limited through its subsidiary Seven Network (Operations) Limited (Seven) has filed court proceedings in the Federal Court of Australia against Cricket Australia (CA) in relation to multiple quality and standard breaches by CA of Seven’s Media Rights Agreement with CA (MRA),” the statement said.
“The SWM proceedings will seek both: a court declaration that Seven is entitled to terminate the MRA on the basis of material contract breaches by CA which were not remedied; and damages arising out of past breaches. Seven previously obtained preliminary discovery proceedings in the Federal Court relating to the claims.
“Seven’s intention is to terminate the MRA, conditional on the Federal Court granting a declaration that Seven is entitled to do so. Seven has the right to waive this condition. The damages action is not conditional. Seven will continue to perform its obligations under the MRA (in terms of telecasting Tests and BBL etc.) until terminated.
“Seven has pursued the informal dispute resolution procedure under the MRA but the procedure failed to resolve the dispute.”
Cricket Australia responded to Channel Seven’s move by saying that they would fight the action & also stated that they were shocked by Seven’s decision after delivering two successful seasons of BBL & home Tests amid the challenges of COVID-19
“Cricket Australia (CA) is aware of reports that our broadcast partner, the Seven Network, has commenced legal proceedings against CA in relation to recent COVID-impacted cricket seasons,” the statement said.
“CA delivered two very successful cricket seasons in 2020-21 and 2021-22, including every WBBL and BBL game (a total of 240 games over two seasons) and highly acclaimed international schedules, despite the enormous challenges presented by the global pandemic.
“In the circumstances, CA is astonished that Seven has brought this unwarranted action which will be strenuously defended.”
Seven has signed a six-year deal in 2018 to be the free-to-air broadcast partner of CA alongside subscription provider Foxtel. However, in recent years, the Channel has been keen to terminate the deal. In late 2020, Seven took CA to an independent arbitrator seeking massive cuts to their A$82 million-a-year share of the A$1.18 billion deal signed alongside Foxtel in April 2018.
The arbitrator Justin Jameson of Venture Consulting, concluded that Seven should get only a A$5 million discount of the A$70 million reductions the network had been chasing. The “quality and standards breaches” are addressed in terms of BBL which has declined in popularity since Seven began the broadcasting in 2018-2019 although ratings have remained relatively good compared to other Australian sports leagues.
Meanwhile, CA has undertaken various steps to revive BBL’s popularity this year by launching an overseas draft system keeping in mind the next TV rights cycle when the current deal with Seven and Foxtel ends in 2024.