Why the rights to broadcast cricket could be worth $1 billion

Marc C-Scott, Victoria University

A fierce bidding war is under way for the rights to stream and broadcast cricket for the next five years. The price is expected to reach A$1 billion, almost double the previous deal. Media companies are facing stiff competition because increasing viewer numbers are luring social media websites and other platforms into the race to host this content.

The price for rights keeps going up even though the Nine Network is losing money on its cricket coverage and Seven’s CEO Tim Worner has stated recent price increases for sports rights “are not sustainable”.

The Big Bash League, which is also broadcast internationally, is a huge driver behind the new rights deal. The new players interested in the streaming rights include telecommunications companies like Optus and Telstra, social media platforms (Facebook and Twitter) and Cricket Australia itself, which has its own website and app. This is on top of the traditional broadcasters like Nine and Ten.

Sport is key for broadcasters as they can attract advertisers with the promise of viewers who are watching live. Social media platforms and other websites want to lure viewers onto their platforms to discuss the games. Streaming platforms and telcos are trying to appeal to customers with access to exclusive content.


Other sporting codes have recently been through this bidding process, and the deals they have struck hint at what is to come for Cricket Australia.

The AFL media rights, which started last season and run through to 2022, were sold for A$2.5 billion. This is more than double the previous A$1.2 billion agreement.

The value of the NRL broadcast rights, starting this year, also increased substantially from A$1 billion to A$1.8 billion.

But the AFL deal also faced a backlash from fans after it restricted Telstra to streaming just a 7-inch video of live coverage – larger screens are filled with black space. This is true even for those who buy the A$89 subscription to the AFL Live app.

Fox Sports streams live full HD video as part of the deal.

New players are driving up the cost

One of the major drivers of the price of sports rights is the increase and uptake of streaming. Broadcasters want the rights to televise and stream the games, while tech companies, telcos and others are more interested in the streaming rights.

The number of people streaming the cricket has doubled in the past year, according to one Cricket Australia executive, and paid subscriptions have increased by 30%.

Last year’s women’s Big Bash League was streamed across cricket.com.au, Facebook and the Cricket Australia app, reaching 1.5 million people. This season, 47 of the matches were streamed on Mamamia, a lifestyle website aimed at women.

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Social media platforms want live sport to attract large crowds that will then use the platform to discuss the event. Twitter has a deal to stream Major League Baseball games (and formerly had one with the National Football League).

Twitter has also previously streamed the Melbourne Cup. Last year Facebook unsuccessfully bid US$600 million for the rights to stream Indian Premier League cricket.

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg has described sport as “anchor content”. In other words, it will encourage people to watch more video on Facebook.

In addition to social platforms, Telstra and Optus have been competing with each other by offering exclusive content. Telstra holds AFL and NRL streaming rights, and also has a TV service, giving customers access to various content including sport.

Optus is an official partner of Cricket Australia, allowing its customers to stream cricket without incurring data charges. Optus also has exclusive broadcast rights to the 2018 FIFA World Cup.

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And after all that, we get to the traditional broadcasters. Ten, now owned by US network CBS, will be unlikely to walk away from the success it has had with the Big Bash League.

Nine’s CEO, High Marks, has stated that the network also needs to have streaming as part of the sports rights.

We have seen Seven recently undertake a hybrid mode with its coverage of the Olympics and Australian Open tennis. The broadcaster offers a premium paid tier alongside its free streaming. This mode has created tension between free-to-air broadcasters and Foxtel, with requests for the government to remove the anti-siphoning rules that prevent pay TV bidding for particular sports.

Foxtel is currently not involved in broadcasting domestic cricket, but it is likely to be part of new negotiations. The government has awarded Fox Sports a A$30 million grant to support the coverage of women and niche sports. If nothing else, Fox Sports could seek to pick up the rights to women’s cricket, including the Big Bash League, which has had only a small percentage of games broadcast.

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Chasing the audience: is it over and out for cricket on free to air TV?

Cricket Australia has previously noted that media rights make up as much as 80% of its income. Whatever deal is struck will have a huge impact not just for the professional players, but for the grassroots as well.

Cricket Australia will want to get the most for its rights, but needs to make sure not to impact grassroots participation and attendance. This was one of the side effects in the United Kingdom when pay TV providers secured exclusive rights to broadcast the cricket.

The ConversationThere is a huge opportunity here for Cricket Australia to advance the way in which the game is delivered to all screens. But, as we can see, the changing media landscape means it needs to balance the needs of many stakeholders.

Marc C-Scott, Lecturer in Screen Media, Victoria University

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.


Chasing the audience: is it over and out for cricket on free to air TV?

Marc C-Scott, Victoria University

How Australians watch cricket on screens in the future could depend on what happens with the Nine Network’s current discussions with Cricket Australia over the 2018-23 media rights. The Conversation

UBS media analyst Eric Choi said the current deal costs Nine about A$100 million a year but generates only A$60 million to A$70 million in gross revenue.

Choi said the network should either ask for access to more content at no additional cost, or step away from its long association with cricket.

The ramifications of Nine’s decision could be broad, impacting not only its potential revenue and viewers, but also participation rates among Aussies playing grassroots cricket.

Cricket’s current standing

The current media rights deal for cricket includes the Nine Network and Network Ten. Nine has the rights to international tests, one-day internationals and T20 international games played in Australia, whereas Ten has the rights to the Big Bash League (BBL).

The BBL has become a crucial cricketing brand, continuing to gain high ratings and listed in Australia’s Top 20 engaging programs for 2016.

The league also has excellent crowd attendance, having recently ranked 9th in the world’s top-attended sports leagues.

Based on the BBL’s success and the increases seen in the new media rights for the Australian Football League (AFL) and National Rugby League (NRL), Cricket Australia will want to see an increase in the bidding for its rights.

This is particularly relevant if Cricket Australia still relies as heavily on these rights as in 2012, when it said the rights accounted for 60%-80% of the total annual income.

But can the media rights continue to increase with the current unstable media landscape?

The current media landscape

According to Arnhem Investment Management, the era of advertising-supported premium sport on Australian television is “drawing to a close”.

The free-to-air (FTA) broadcasters are also currently requesting that the government reduce license fees and reconsider plans to further restrict gambling ads during the broadcast of sports.

Ten has said it expects its revenue to be “above the 1.2% increase” it outlined in February this year. Yet it will still need to undertake a “significant focus” on a corporate cost-cutting program and profitability as a priority.

New stakeholders

With FTA broadcasters under financial pressures, any increase in new rights will require new stakeholders.

Foxtel currently shows international cricket matches played overseas, but does not have local coverage rights. If it could gain local cricket rights, this would further strengthen Foxtel’s sports offering of AFL, NRL, A-league, V8 Supercars, and many international sports.

Australia’s anti-siphoning regulation could prevent Foxtel completely dominating the cricket media rights. But this list is expected to be trimmed further by the government this year, furthering opening up the sports media battleground for pay television in future rights deals.

The future for digital rights

Digital rights will also be a major consideration with the new cricket media rights. While most would be looking at Telstra and Optus, there have been new players in this area who may also wish to place a bid.

Currently Cricket Australia has the Cricket Australia Live app which allows users to pay a subscription (A$30 per year or A$5.99 a day) to gain access to live streaming of games, but the new rights could also see this change.

Optus may continue its affiliation with cricket. It recently become the official mobile media partner of Cricket Australia, and principal sponsor of the Melbourne Stars Big Bash League team. Customers can access cricket content via the Optus Sports app, which also includes Optus’ recently acquired English Premier League.

Twitter has had success with broadcasting the US National Football League (NFL) and the Melbourne cup last year. This year it signed a two-year deal with the US National Lacrosse League. Twitter may consider its interest in a global sport like cricket.

Amazon, which recently launched its Prime Video service in Australia, could also be a contender. This year Amazon won the rights for NFL Thursday night matches. It paid US$50 million for ten games, five times the price paid by Twitter last year. Amazon may look at the cricket as another potential global sport to add to its catalogue.

Another consideration is if Nine or Ten were to obtain the digital rights and use the free and subscription approach that the Seven Network used as part of their Rio Games coverage last year.

The impact on the viewing experience

Can you “slice and dice” too much? This is a question being asked in the US by CBS chief executive Les Moonves with regard to the NFL.

Adding another stakeholder to cricket will impact the viewers’ experience. This year the new AFL media rights created some frustration linked with the way the rights had been negotiated, particularly the digital rights.

Telstra, the digital rights holder, is restricted by its agreement to limit live match videos to a 7-inch screen size. Highlights and replays are available in full-screen size 12 hours after the match ends. (Foxtel, meanwhile, can stream the games full-screen.)


This change has outraged some fans who paid the A$89 subscription fee for the AFL Live app. Because of the screen size restrictions, Telstra users with a large phone or tablet have a large amount of black space on their screen.


Some Australians are being creative in working around the restrictions.


Media coverage and participation

The media rights for sport can be looked at far more broadly than solely the coverage of the game itself.

In the United Kingdom there has been ongoing debate associated with cricket’s coverage. Since the sport moved to pay-TV, there has been a decline in participation levels, which many argued is primarily due to the game no longer being broadcast free to air.

Reports of a Sport England Active People survey show a 32% drop in participation levels in people aged over 16 since coverage of cricket moved to satellite and cable TV.

There are now steps being taken to introduce a new Twenty20 tournament in the UK, built around the success of the Indian Premier League and Australia’s BBL, which had some games live broadcast in the UK during the last season.

This is an interesting case study for Cricket Australia, which only last year announced cricket as “No 1 as the current top participation sport in Australia”.

Any changes to the rights that impact the percentage of Australians with access to the coverage, could also see a decline in participation based on the UK experience.

Marc C-Scott, Lecturer in Screen Media, Victoria University

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

Australia Dedicates Cricket World Cup Win to Late Teammate


Australia captain Michael Clarke dedicated his team’s Cricket World Cup victory to the memory of teammate Phillip Hughes, who was killed during a match in November.

“I think for everybody in Australian cricket it’s been really tough few months,” Clarke said, according to the BBC. “Tonight is certainly dedicated to our little brother and our teammate Phillip Hughes.”

Hughes was struck in the head by a ball and was rushed to a hospital for emergency surgery. He remained a medically-induced coma for two days before his death. He was 25.

Australia defeated New Zealand by seven wickets in the World Cup final on Sunday. It was a record fifth World Cup victory for the Australians, and their fourth in the last five tournaments. No other country has won more than twice.

This article originally appeared on SI.com

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