Sport Cricket Seven network heads to court as dispute with Cricket Australia worsens

Seven network heads to court as dispute with Cricket Australia worsens

channel seven cricket australia
Channel Seven secured the free-to-air broadcast rights after Nine had them for decades. Photo: AAP
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Seven West Media has launched legal action in the Federal Court against Cricket Australia, as the broadcaster continues its move to reduce its contract or get out of it altogether.

Seven has lodged an affidavit to uncover CA documents in an attempt to prove the governing body breached its contract with the free-to-air broadcaster.

Seven is seeking to prove that CA gave preferential treatment to the powerful Board of Control for Cricket in India and Foxtel by pushing the four-Test series against India to the back of the summer.

Seven claims the value of its contract has been reduced because the first men’s internationals of the summer have been broadcast behind a paywall on Foxtel and Kayo.

The first and second one-day internationals against India drew a peak audience of 400,000 and 448,000 Foxtel viewers respectively.

The numbers for the second game on Sunday grew to 585,000 when you add in the viewers watching on streaming service Kayo, making it the third most watched sport program ever on subscription TV in Australia.

Foxtel has praised the summer schedule, with executive director Steve Crawley saying in a statement: “It’s a ripper schedule and already the fans are loving it.”

The first two ODIs have been ratings winners for Foxtel and Kayo.

The original summer schedule, which would have started with the Test series, has been turned around so India can return home to prepare for a Test series against England.

In 2018, Seven bought the free-to-air television cricket rights for six years for $450 million after Channel Nine had held them for decades.

Seven has since posted a $444 million loss.

The network has waged open warfare with CA in recent months, arguing the value of its product has been diluted by changes to the schedule due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

A Test against Afghanistan was cancelled and a one-day series against New Zealand was postponed.

The decision to stage three ODIs and three T20 matches before the Tests also means India’s captain and biggest drawcard, Virat Kohli, will play only the first Test in Adelaide on December 17 before returning to India to be with his pregnant wife for the birth of their child.

Seven is hoping to prove CA breached its contract, which could lead to the contract being torn up or other forms of retribution.

CA has offered Seven West Media a contract reduction, but the network is not accepting.

CA has used the “force majeure” clause in its contract with Seven to argue the pandemic that forced the schedule changes was an act of God.

The Federal Court action is separate to another dispute Seven has launched in the Australian Chamber for International and Commercial Arbitration for Independent Valuation over the contract.

CA says the body has no authority to settle the contest.

Throughout all of this, acting CA chief executive Nick Hockley has consistently maintained that it will offer a high-quality summer of cricket.

A CA spokesman said the organisation had no comment to make “at the moment” about the latest court action.