‘We will revolutionise TV cricket’
AUSTRALIAN cricket fans are set for a brave new world in cricket coverage after Foxtel's CEO promised viewers he will "revolutionise TV cricket".
In a landmark change to the Australian sporting media landscape, Foxtel and Channel Seven have seized the cricket from Channel Nine for the first time in more than 40 years in a mammoth $1 billion deal.
The deal will see a new channel dedicated to cricket, Fox Cricket, "which continues in the footsteps of code-dedicated channels Fox League and Fox Footy. Fox Cricket will house Super Saturday each weekend and a stable of new shows will be developed," a statement from Fox Sports read.
"It will be like nothing fans have experienced," Foxtel CEO Patrick Delany said on Friday.
Cricket Australia chief James Sutherland is expected to front the media this afternoon to officially announce the deal. He was expected to speak at 2pm but is nowhere to be seen.
Beating Mr Sutherland to it, Fox Sports tweeted the announcement: "Welcome to your new home of cricket!"
"In a historic first, Fox Sports will broadcast every cricket match Australia plays from the beginning of the 2018-19 season," it said.
It announced every home Test and women's international will be simulcast on Fox Sports and on free-to-air on the Seven Network.
"Fox Sports understands the immense responsibility that comes with being the broadcaster of Australian Test cricket and we will take extraordinary care of this privilege, with the fan always at the heart of what we do," Foxtel CEO Patrick Delany said on Friday.
"In the same way we revolutionised television coverage of the AFL and NRL, we will do the same for cricket. It will be like nothing fans have experienced.
"We will treat the game with the respect it deserves while reinvigorating it across every form."
The next Ashes series and ODI World Cup will still be shown on Nine.
Cricket Australia was expected to announce a new six-year deal worth a $1 billion on Friday. Seven West Media released a statement saying it had been told by Cricket Australia it was the successful bidder, with Foxtel.
"Contracts are being finalised but are not yet signed. A full announcement will be made on signing this afternoon," Seven said.
The Australian reports Seven has committed to annual payments of $75 million or $450m over six years, with Foxtel stumping up $105 million a season or $630 million.
"You've seen how Fox Sports have revolutionised rugby league, you see the way that Fox League leads the agenda and I think we're going to see a similar kind of move in cricket," The Australian's media editor Darren Davidson told Sky News on Friday.
"It probably needs it, an injection of real rigour. For fans it's really exciting times ahead."
Foxtel will share the rights with Seven because anti-siphoning laws require major international cricket matches to be shown on free-to-air television. But it is expected to have exclusive rights to some Big Bash League matches.
Meanwhile Channel Nine says it will be "concentrating on its tennis coverage after last month announcing it had secured the rights to the Australian Open for five years from 2020 to 2024".
Nine has held the rights for matches played by Australia for the past 40 years under a deal struck by Kerry Packer, but its five-year deal worth $500 million with Cricket Australia ended with reports it was losing more than $30 million a year on international cricket.
"Nine is immensely proud of our decades long association between Wide World of Sports and the game of cricket in this country," a Nine spokesman said.
"We wish Cricket Australia and its new broadcast partners well for the future success of the game.
"Cricket will continue to be a part of Nine's schedule into the future with current deals in place covering the next Ashes series from England in 2019, the ODI World Cup in the UK in the same year and in 2020 the T20 World Cups to be held in Australia."
A disappointed Network Ten chief executive Paul Anderson confirmed its offer had been rejected on Friday morning, after having televised the emergent Big Bash League for the past four summers.
"We are disappointed that our bid for the cricket television rights was rejected," Anderson said in a statement.
"Network Ten turned the Big Bash League into the television phenomenon it is today and one of the most popular sports in Australia, a sport that all Australians were able enjoy for free.
"We had planned to extend that innovation to other forms of the game.
"Network Ten and our BBL team led by David Barham revolutionised the way cricket is broadcast in Australia and attracted new, younger viewers to the game.
"At the same time, we invested heavily in the Women's Big Bash League, broadcasting matches in prime time for the first time and raising its profile significantly."
- Foxtel is majority owned by News Corp, publisher of news.com.au