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Tennis Australia tests the water for new domestic rights deal

Tennis Australia has opened talks with commercial broadcasters over a new domestic rights deal for the Australian Open grand slam tournament in an effort to steal a march in the market on Cricket Australia, according to The Australian.

The newspaper said Tennis Australia’s head of media rights, Alfonso Medina, has visited broadcasters for informal talks in recent weeks ahead of what is expected to be an open bidding process.

Commercial broadcaster Seven currently holds the free-to-air, pay-television and digital rights to the Australian Open under a five-year deal valued at A$200m (€134.4m/$158.7m) that is due to expire following the 2019 tournament. This is a year before the end of Cricket Australia’s current rights deals, which are headlined by the Big Bash League domestic Twenty20 competition.

The Australian said Tennis Australia believes a new deal would help to create some distance from the controversies generated by the current one. In January, it emerged that the Australian Securities and Investment Commission had placed Tennis Australia under investigation over allegations the national governing body’s rights deal with Seven may have broken the law.

ASIC is said to be probing Tennis Australia’s decision to sell the rights for the 2015 to 2019 cycle to long-time partner Seven in 2013 without launching a competitive bidding process.

Seven has strenuously denied any wrongdoing, but the deal is estimated to have cost Tennis Australia up to A$50m in lost revenue.