Nine backs out of talks for early start to Australian Open coverage

Nine has exited talks with fellow commercial broadcaster Seven to make an early start to its domestic coverage of the Australian Open grand slam tennis tournament, leaving it without a mainstream sports event this summer.

Nine chief executive Hugh Marks told the Fairfax Media company that he chose to end talks over sublicensing the final year of Seven’s rights after an a “very fair” offer for the 2019 Australian Open was rejected. Nine’s offer reportedly represented an Aus$10m (€6.45m/$7.62m) premium on Seven’s current deal with Tennis Australia, which is worth around Aus$40m per year.

Nine in March snatched the domestic rights to the Australian Open from rival Seven. The five-year deal, which will run from 2020 until 2024, is worth a total of Aus$300m, or Aus$60m per year. Seven is said to have wanted closer to the Aus$60m mark to give up its rights early, with Tennis Australia declining to help make up the shortfall.

Seven will now need to accommodate both the Australian Open and domestic cricket coverage this summer. In April, Seven and pay-television broadcaster Fox Sports sealed a domestic rights deal with Cricket Australia in an agreement that takes limited-over internationals behind the paywall for the first time and ends Nine’s long-running association with the rights.

The new six-season broadcast and digital partnership, which includes a dedicated Fox Cricket channel and runs from 2018-19 to 2023-24, will result in an overall benefit to the sport worth Aus$1.182bn.

Fairfax said preparations are “well underway” at Seven for the broadcaster to cover both sports. Seven is expected to use its final Australian Open to heavily promote its cricket coverage.