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Seven ‘prepares ground’ to terminate A$450m Cricket Australia deal

Seven West Media’s ongoing rights contract feud with Cricket Australia has escalated after it was reported that the media group is preparing to end its agreement and would not be making its next payment of A$25m (€15.4m/$18.2m).

Seven West Media owns commercial broadcaster Seven Network. Seven and pay-television broadcaster Fox Sports hold a six-year domestic rights deal with Cricket Australia running from 2018-19 to 2023-24 and worth a total of A$1.18bn.

The contract with Seven is worth an average of around A$75m per year in rights fees, or a total of A$450m.

Last month, Seven West Media chief executive James Warburton called on Cricket Australia to provide more clarity on its plans for the summer season as the company contemplated rights fee reduction talks with the body. Warburton warned that Seven could “telecast grade cricket for free” if a clear calendar of events was not laid out, claiming that the “massive” fee it pays for rights warrants more clarity.

Cricket Australia later insisted it would deliver a full schedule of matches this summer using bio-secure hubs but Warburton doubled down on Seven’s warning, stating that the company is “the most incompetent administration I’ve ever worked with”.

The dispute has now escalated further after Seven officially informed Cricket Australia of its objection to the proposed calendar. Seven will not make the A$25m payment that is due next week, according to the Sydney Morning Herald newspaper.

The Herald, citing a source with knowledge of Seven’s stance, reported that the company feels the quality of the Big Bash League Twenty20 competition will be diminished due to international player hubs, with Seven also believing that Cricket Australia is “bowing to the demands” of the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) when devising its calendar.

The report added that Seven is “furious” that the realigned calendar will result in a delay for the first free-to-air men’s international, with Fox Sports set to air one-day internationals and T20 internationals. Seven is considering terminating its deal outright, according to the Herald.

In response, Cricket Australia spokesman told the newspaper: “Cricket Australia remains in ongoing discussions with the Seven Network about delivering a compelling summer of cricket. CA is committed to fulfilling its contractual obligations to all its partners this season.”

Warburton has previously called for Cricket Australia to follow the lead of the AFL Aussie rules football league, which revised its contract with the broadcaster after its 2020 Premiership season was suspended due to Covid-19.