Nine returns to the court for extended Australian Open deal

Nine has today (Monday) reached an agreement to commence its coverage of the Australian Open a year early, with the deal coming a week after it said it had exited talks with the rights-holder of the tennis grand slam, fellow commercial broadcaster Seven.

Nine’s deal with Seven and Tennis Australia means its contract will now start in January 2019 and run for six years, until the end of 2024.

Nine said the rights granted for the one-year extension match the original deal, meaning it has acquired all audiovisual rights for broadcast, streaming, mobile, digital and social platforms.

In return for agreeing to take on the rights one year early, Nine said it has secured the 2019 rights at a cost of A$48.5m (€31.3m/$36.9m), compared to the A$60m per year fee it had agreed from 2020.

Hugh Marks, chief executive of Nine, said: “As I said back in March, the timing of tennis and the audience demographics it delivers are a perfect fit for Nine and its advertisers. We’re also mighty pleased to have been able to settle on a price for the additional year that is consistent with our original offer to Seven.”

Craig Tiley, Australian Open tournament director and Tennis Australia chief executive, added: “We’ve enjoyed a 40-plus year partnership with the Seven Network and are glad we could reach an agreement which is in all our best interests. Our objectives throughout this process have been to focus on meeting changing viewer habits, bringing the entire AO event experience to life on all platforms and capitalising on the digital wave.”

The six-year deal encompasses the Australian Open in Melbourne as well as the lead-up tournaments around Australia – the Hopman Cup in Perth and the Brisbane, Sydney and Hobart Internationals.

Marks last week 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 A$10m premium on Seven’s current deal with Tennis Australia, which is worth about A$40m per year.

Nine in March snatched the domestic rights to the Australian Open from rival Seven. The five-year deal, which was to run from 2020 until 2024, was worth a total of A$300m: A$60m per year. Seven is said to have wanted closer to the A$60m mark for 2019 to give up its rights early, with Tennis Australia declining to make up the shortfall.

Following today’s announcement, Seven will no longer face the challenge of accommodating 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 be worth A$1.182bn.