Cricket on TV

Inside Sport - - 10 Things You Need To Know - – Jeff Cen­ten­era

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The surest sign that the times have a-changed: the cricket is no longer on Chan­nel Nine. No more Wide World of Sports theme, no more “It’s all hap­pen­ing”, the 12th Man al­bums be­com­ing an arte­fact. The as­so­ci­a­tion that Kerry Packer forged 40 years ago gives way to the new pack­age of Fox­tel and Seven, who will de­liver Cricket Aus­tralia’s much-de­sired $1b for the next six years of broad­cast rights, dou­ble what Nine was pay­ing. It’s not just Nine – view­ers of the Big Bash League will no longer flick over to Ten, as the T20 comp also moves over in the deal.

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In one re­spect, it’s an in­ver­sion of the clas­sic sum­mer sport­ing roles for the free-to-air net­works: cricket on Seven, ten­nis on

Nine. Nine had pre­vi­ously scooped the Aus­tralian

Open for $300m, a move that sig­nalled it was un­likely to hold onto its sched­ule of Tests, ODIs and T20 in­ter­na­tion­als.

Seven is pay­ing a lot more for bats than it did for rac­quets, but as net­work boss Tim

Worner noted, they get a lot more for it

– some 70 days and nights of pro­gram­ming com­pared to 14 for the

Grand Slam.

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This new ar­range­ment, how­ever, has greater im­pli­ca­tions for Fox Sports, which has started up a ded­i­cated chan­nel, Fox Cricket, along the lines of its Footy and League of­fer­ings. Cricket ef­fec­tively be­comes the pay-TV net­work’s new iden­tity over the sum­mer months (with apolo­gies to those ded­i­cated view­ers of the A-League). It’s also some­thing of a course cor­rec­tion for Fox Sports – it had the rights to the BBL in its first year, be­fore Ten took over in what was recog­nised as a mu­tual boost for both the net­work and the league.

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As al­ways, when a sport hops net­works, we’ve been promised a host of in­no­va­tions that will change the way we see the game. (You know what that means: more drone footage!) On the Fox Cricket front, there’s also a flood of ex­tra pro­gram­ming com­ing down the pipe to fill the hours be­tween matches: ex­ten­sion of its 360 stu­dio show brand, more of Robert Craddock’s Legends in­ter­views, and shows from res­i­dent merry-mak­ers Gus Wor­land ( The Cricket

Tragic) and James “The Pro­fes­sor” Rochford ( The Night Watch­man).

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Most im­por­tantly, who will be call­ing the ac­tion? We wit­nessed the most vig­or­ous free agent mar­ket for com­men­ta­tors, with Fox and Seven go­ing back and forth with big-name an­nounce­ments. Fox has added Shane Warne and Adam Gilchrist as prom­i­nent faces to their line-up of Mark Waugh, Al­lan Bor­der and Bren­don Julian. It will also have Mitchell John­son, Michael Hussey, Bre– Lee, for­mer Eng­land cap­tain Michael Vaughan and every­one’s favourite ra­dio ec­cen­tric, Kerry O’Ke­effe. Mean­while, Seven has as­sem­bled the likes of Ricky Ponting, Glenn McGrath, Damien Flem­ing and Michael Slater, among oth­ers.

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But the most in­trigu­ing move in the comm-box – and the sym­bol of a real shi in cricket cov­er­age – is Seven’s choice of Alison Mitchell to be one of their lead ball-by-ball call­ers. The English­woman is highly re­garded for her work with the BBC, and is al­ready known to cricket au­di­ences here from stints with ABC Ra­dio. As Seven’s cricket chief David Barham noted, Mitchell was of­fered the job be­cause she’s “in the best two or three” cricket call­ers in the world. By con­trast to Nine’s ex-player-heavy ro­ta­tion, Seven will mark it­self out with me­dia pros such as Mitchell, Tim Lane and stu­dio host Mel McLaugh­lin. And, yes, Bruce McA­vaney will have a role. Can’t wait un­til the first “spe­cial” cricket mo­ment of the sum­mer ar­rives.

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The big talk­ing point to emerge out of the new deal was the matches that were go­ing ex­clu­sively to Fox – and thus be­hind the pay­wall. Fox Cricket will have cov­er­age of the Aus­tralian men’s ODIs and T20Is, as well as 16 Big Bash matches, that Seven will not. Pas­sion­ate cricket fans, who were less pas­sion­ate about pay­ing to watch cricket on TV, won­dered why the anti-si­phon­ing law that keeps cer­tain sport­ing events on free-TV didn’t ap­ply. But as we came to learn (golf and ten­nis fans have known for a while), the leg­is­la­tion doesn’t man­date free-TV sta­tions air these events – if it re­fuses to ac­quire the rights, or is happy to pass them along, they can sit ex­clu­sively on pay-TV.

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While the vale­dic­to­ries for Nine’s cov­er­age came pour­ing out, it should be noted that it still has some cricket to broad­cast over the next cou­ple of years. It will broad­cast both the one-day World Cup from Eng­land next June, and flow right into the Ashes tour a er that; it also has the rights to the ICC World T20 in Aus­tralia in late 2020. It’s enough ma­te­rial that Nine kept Mark Tay­lor un­der con­tract, al­though we’d per­son­ally love to see more Tubby on NRL.

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The carousel of sports rights is in full spin (Ten takes over the Mel­bourne Cup from Seven next year), push­ing the price tags ever higher. More than a few ob­servers have noted that such in­creases point to sports rights be­ing over­val­ued, but the old-line net­works are cling­ing to one of the last few tele­vised prop­er­ties that still works. The in­ter­est­ing de­vel­op­ment is what hap­pens on the dig­i­tal side – Fox­tel gained stream­ing rights as part of its pack­age, but will share it with Cricket Aus­tralia’s own dig­i­tal plat­form. How the dri of view­ers away from TV will af­fect the old model will be some­thing to watch, as will the move that me­dia types are hang­ing out for – how long un­til the tech com­pa­nies en­ter the bid­ding war for sport?

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As taught us, where TV goes, cricket will fol­low. The mas­sive re­turns the game is cur­rently pulling in – the rights to In­dia’s non-IPL, non-ICC cricket went for $1.3b last April – would seem to re­in­force the crick­et­ing sta­tus quo. And yet, the per­sis­tent ques­tions over the shape of the sport’s fu­ture – the rel­e­vance of the Test for­mat, the growth of T20, the share of money that goes to the play­ers ver­sus the grass­roots – still sit pre­car­i­ously in a time of abun­dance. What hap­pens when the money doesn’t roll in?

CA boss James Suther­land switches on to Fox­tel and Seven. ¡¢£¤¥ BJ and Mitch on Fox, live. Alison Mitchell brings a new voice to the comm-box. Howzat

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