An ugly stoush between Channel 7 and Cricket Australia is set to see them square off in Federal Court over alleged breaches to the broadcast deal.
Channel 7 is taking Cricket Australia to the Federal Court in a bombshell development in their simmering feud.
The TV network has been fighting battles against cricket’s governing body ever since Seven West boss James Warburton in 2020 famously referred to CA as “the most incompetent administration I’ve ever worked with”.
Now the dispute is at breaking point with Seven filing court proceedings with claims of numerous contract breaches by CA surrounding their $450m TV rights agreement.
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The network signed a $450 million deal in 2018 – part of a record $1.2 billion cricket rights deal that saw Foxtel and Kayo pay around $670 million — as it pinched the free-to-air broadcast rights from Channel 9 after a 40-year stranglehold.
The Daily Telegraph first revealed Seven wants to terminate the existing deal which still has a further two years to run.
Seven confirmed the news in a statement.
Cricket Australia has now responded with it’s own statement where the organisation says it is “astonished” by Seven’s accusations.
“Cricket Australia (CA) is aware of reports that our broadcast partner, the Seven Network, has commenced legal proceedings against CA in relation to recent COVID-impacted cricket seasons.” the statement said.
“CA delivered two very successful cricket seasons in 2020-21 and 2021-22, including every WBBL and BBL game (a total of 240 games over two seasons) and highly acclaimed international schedules, despite the enormous challenges presented by the global pandemic.
“In the circumstances, CA is astonished that Seven has brought this unwarranted action which will be strenuously defended.
“CA remains enormously proud of the efforts of the Australian Cricket family including players, match officials, sponsors, stadium operators, host governments, staff and volunteers whose hard work, dedication and expertise allowed us to deliver two exceptional cricket seasons in unprecedented circumstances.
“We look forward to another hugely entertaining summer, including hosting the ICC Men’s T20 World Cup as defending champions, welcoming a record six international touring teams to Australia, as well as the eighth and twelfth editions of WBBL and BBL respectively.”
Seven’s endgame is to terminate the contract
Seven’s statement showed how desperate the network is to walk away.
“Seven West Media Limited through its subsidiary Seven Network Limited has filed court proceedings in the Federal Court of Australia against Cricket Australia in relation to multiple quality and standard breaches by CA of Seven’s Media Rights Agreement with CA,” said a Seven statement.
“The SWM (Seven West Media) proceedings will seek both: A court declaration that Seven is entitled to terminate the MRA (media rights agreement) on the basis of material contract breaches by CA which were not remedied.
“And damages arising out of past breaches.”
The statement makes it clear that Seven will continue to broadcast Australian test cricket and the Big Bash League (BBL) until the legal dispute is resolved.
The network said in the statement the ongoing dialogue between Seven and CA had not resolved the issue.
“Seven’s intention is to terminate the MRA, conditional on the Federal Court granting a declaration that Seven is entitled to do so,” the statement said.
“Seven has the right to waive this condition.
“The damages action is not conditional.
“Seven will continue to perform its obligations under the MRA (in terms of telecasting Tests and BBL etc) until terminated.
“Seven has pursued the informal dispute resolution procedure under the MRA but the procedure failed to resolve the dispute.”
Seven in 2020 first started proceedings to pull out of the media rights deal.
Seven’s biggest gripe has always been the BBL — previously broadcast by Channel 10 — which it argues has been devalued because of the lack of availability of international stars.
At the time, Seven demanded a reduced rate for the money it was paying — but Cricket Australia refused to budge after the organisation was able to complete a full summer of domestic and international cricket despite sweeping Covid-19 restrictions.
While Cricket is in a desperate position heading into the next round of rights negotiations as interest in the BBL continues to plummet, Tennis Australia and Channel 9 are coming off a record-breaking summer, headlined by Ash Barty’s Aussie Open victory.
It was reported in February BBL games have lost an average of 450,000 TV viewers per game compared to an average of 1.1 million viewers-per-game when the BBL was broadcast by Ten in 2016.