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Covid sinks Swimming Australia’s Seven rights deal

Australian free-to-air commercial broadcaster Seven has agreed to terminate its rights deal with Swimming Australia after the body was unable to hold this year’s Olympic and Paralympic trials due to the Covid-19 pandemic as required under the terms of their agreement.

In a joint statement, the two parties stated their disappointment at the outcome, which has been agreed after Seven gave notice of termination.

Seven agreed a long-term rights deal with Swimming Australia in September 2015. The deal was for an initial five years, from 2016-17 to 2020-21, and included the option for a further four-year extension until 2025 but this will now not be taken up.

As part of the deal, Seven, which replaced commercial broadcaster Ten as Swimming Australia’s rights-holding broadcaster, showed the body’s major international and national events hosted within Australia. The deal covered free-to-air and digital platforms.

Following the termination of the deal, Swimming Australia chief executive Leigh Russell said: “While we are disappointed with the outcome, we acknowledge that these are unprecedented times for businesses all over the world, including our own, and understand Seven’s position. I would like to take this opportunity to thank Seven for the generous contribution they have made to the sport of swimming over the years.”

Russell added: “We see the broadcast of swimming in Australia as crucial to our sport and the fabric of the Australian sporting landscape and we will continue to explore options within the media and digital landscape for opportunities to share and showcase our amazing sport, which literally millions of Australians are involved in.”

Last year, Seven increased its commitment to swimming with a deal to show the franchise-based International Swimming League.

In recent weeks, Seven has been in dispute with Cricket Australia over the terms of its rights agreement amid changes in schedules and competitions due to the pandemic.

Seven has withheld rights fees due to the dispute but this week made a A$10m (€6.1m/$7.1m) payment to Cricket Australia ahead of an arbitration hearing about the deal planned for next week.