Seven pays Cricket Australia before arbitration hearing

Australian commercial broadcaster Seven has made a A$10m ($7.1m/€6.1m) media-rights fee payment to Cricket Australia, prior to an arbitration hearing about the two parties’ media-rights deal planned for next week.

CA and its two domestic broadcast partners, Seven and pay-television broadcaster Foxtel, have been in dispute over how changes to cricket schedules and competitions this year due to the pandemic have affected the values of their deals.

Both broadcasters had withheld rights-fee payments due to the dispute. A report in The Brisbane Times says payments have now been made, with Foxtel recently paying a A$33m instalment. The Brisbane Times said Seven paid the full amount of what was owed to protect itself before an independent tribunal evaluated the value of the rights.

Seven pays around A$82m per year to CA for its rights in a six-year deal from 2018-19 to 2023-24. Fox Sports pays just over $110m per season in a deal covering the same period. The deals are together worth a total of A$1.18bn over the period.

The Brisbane Times report says CA last week indicated that it was willing to negotiate with the broadcasters and offer discounts on their deals.

CA has argued that it will deliver a full schedule of matches this summer, using bio-secure hubs to limit Covid-19 risks, although it has yet to verify a schedule. The matches cover both home internationals and the Big Bash League domestic T20 tournament.

Dates for a high-profile home series against India and the BBL  are yet to be confirmed. The schedule for India’s tour is yet to be approved by the Indian cricket board and Australian government exemptions regarding quarantine for the Indian team have not been confirmed. Last week, a planned home Test against Afghanistan and a one-day international series against New Zealand were postponed.

CA’s broadcasters are unhappy with the quality of the Big Bash League this season, believing the talent pool will be diluted because Australian national team players will be unable to play due to national team commitments.

In August, Seven’s chief executive James Warburton called on CA to provide more clarity on its plans for the summer season, as the company first floated rights fee reduction talks. Warburton also called the current CA administration “the most incompetent administration I’ve ever worked with”.