Ten hits out as Tennis Australia confirms Seven rights deal

Australian commercial broadcaster Network Ten has criticised Tennis Australia’s decision to award a five-year domestic rights extension for the Australian Open grand slam tournament to rival broadcaster Seven as “puzzling”.

The new deal for the broadcast rights to the Australian Open and Australian Open Series for 2015-19 was confirmed today (Friday) after Tennis Australia opted against auctioning the rights.

The agreement, which the Australian newspaper said was worth A$40m (€29.8m/$38.8m) per year, includes free-to-air, pay-television, digital/online, IPTV, HbbTV, mobile and tablet rights, as well as live streaming from all broadcast courts at the Australian Open and Australian Open Series on online and mobile platforms. Seven’s existing five-year agreement expires after the 2014 Australian Open and is worth a total of A$105m.

Ten spokesman Neil Shoebridge told the Mumbrella news website: “While we congratulate Tennis Australia on its new deal with Seven, we find it amazing and puzzling that Tennis Australia did not put its media rights out to tender – particularly as it had told other media companies it would do just that.”

The Australian Financial Review newspaper said earlier this week that Ten was prepared to pay A$45m to A$50m per year for the rights. Tennis Australia also reportedly received a preliminary offer worth about A$40m a year from at least one international sports management group, which would have sold on the rights to local broadcasters.
“It would not have cost Tennis Australia one cent to test the market and see what other broadcasters could have offered it,” Shoebridge added. “Instead, Tennis Australia has potentially done itself out of tens of millions of dollars, money that could have been invested in the grassroots development of tennis – particularly with children – and in better rewards for professional players.”

Seven has been the television partner of the Australian Open since 1973 and the new deal will extend the partnership to 46 years.

Tennis Australia chief executive Steve Wood said: “Seven has played a key role in the success of our sport and events and we welcome their continuing involvement as our coverage expands across broadcast television and new online and tablet apps. This agreement fits in very well with our overall strategy of ensuring as much high quality tennis coverage for the Australian public as possible, freely available on whatever device the viewer chooses.”