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Nine open to Fox Sports partnership for Cricket Australia rights

Australian commercial broadcaster Nine has said it would be open to a partnership with pay-television broadcaster Fox Sports in order to secure the next set of rights marketed by Cricket Australia.

CA, the sport’s national governing body, is coming to the end of five-year deals with Nine and fellow commercial broadcaster Ten worth a combined A$590m (€421.1m/$448.7m). These agreements expire in 2018 and the organisation will reportedly seek to launch new rights tenders in the second half of this year, before the Ashes international series against England.

Nine currently holds rights to international Test matches and one-day internationals. Chief executive Hugh Marks told The Australian newspaper that the broadcaster is keen to add domestic Twenty20 competition the Big Bash League, whose rights are currently held by Ten.

Fox Sports is said to be preparing an aggressive rights bid and has considered partnering with Nine to help it secure the entire package of rights on offer. Marks said a partnership with Fox Sports to acquire cricket rights was “possible”. He added: “I wouldn’t rule anything in or out. Who could a partner be? It could be anybody. We are open to all options and not closed to any.”

The BBL has rapidly developed into one of the world’s leading T20 competitions and CA is said to be seeking to capitalise on this success for its next rights deal. However, Marks has stated his concern over escalating demands for rights fees.

“I would like to do more with cricket than less but we have to be financially responsible for our shareholders in the way that we approach that,” he said. “We have to ensure that we are doing that on a basis on which we can make a return. Cricket Australia also wants to be dealing with profitable businesses. They want great competition in the market but if rights keep bidding up their options will become more limited.”

Marks added: “We as a business are focused on content where we can control the rights, exploit the windows, integrate advertising into the whole proposition and influence the scheduling.

“But the problem with a lot of sport is that the more we go into that world, sport doesn’t often meet all those criteria. There has to be some rationality in the market for rights to reflect the fact that, yes, it is great content but at the same time we can’t keep bidding up to a point where we become an unprofitable business.”