The golden era of cricket on the TV is over. As Channel 7 looks to bail out of its deal with Cricket Australia, writes ROBERT CRADDOCK.
The golden era of cricket on the TV is over. As Channel 7 looks to bail out of its deal with Cricket Australia, writes ROBERT CRADDOCK.

'The glory days are over for cricket'

OPINION

Australian cricket has been hit by a meteor it never saw coming, one which could scorch the landscape of the sport.

Channel 7's stunning termination threat against Cricket Australia just two years into a six-year deal is a watershed moment, not simply for Australian cricket but Australian sport.

Cricket in recent times has been the sport that television stations rushed to rather than from.

Cricket officials never really stressed about a broadcaster dropping the main meal because there was always the comfort of knowing a hungry rival would jump in and catch it before it hit the floor.

Channel 7 cricket commentating team in Melbourne: Tim Paine, Glenn McGrath, Mel McLaughlin and Ricky Ponting. Picture: Tony Gough
Channel 7 cricket commentating team in Melbourne: Tim Paine, Glenn McGrath, Mel McLaughlin and Ricky Ponting. Picture: Tony Gough


Watch every ball of Australia's Tour of England Live & On-Demand on Kayo. New to Kayo? Get your free trial now & start streaming instantly >

Not any more.

The balance sheets of all the free-to-air networks are redder than a Barmy Army general after a day's topless sunbaking at the Gabba.

If you had to have a tip as the likely road forward you might predict Seven to lose the Big Bash and keep the Tests but nothing is certain. They may walk away from everything.

No matter who wins - or should we say loses less - in the looming courtroom war it's a shattering experience for the station and the game.

If Seven leave - and you wonder how they could stay given that they are so desperate to bail out - the free-to-air rights would be farmed off at a cut price rate to Channel 9 or Channel 10.

For the first time since the era when Kerry Packer would take Cricket Australia officials out to a liquid lunch and say "I reckon this is a fair price for the next rights, do we all agree?'' it will truly be a buyer's market.

Cricketer Tony Greig with Kerry Packer in London.
Cricketer Tony Greig with Kerry Packer in London.


And you don't reckon 10 and 9 would enjoy playing hard to get.

Much like that nonchalant buyer with designer sunglasses who swoops at a Saturday auction with a cheeky low ball after the reserve has not been reached, they would relish offering a basement price given they felt so chastened and neglected by Cricket Australia during the last deal.

If the matter proceeds to court it will be a fascinating showdown between two parties who both have some solid ground and soft spots.

Seven will say, among other arguments, that with so many players unavailable due to player hubs this year's Big Bash is club cricket on stilts and a breach of contract conditions which insist this year's league must be the equal of the previous one.

They are also likely to contend that having the Big Bash circus travelling from city to city in big groups means small crowds in neutral venues and a diminished product.

These are fair points but CA also have some of their own.

CA will argue that Channel 7 are guaranteed a full season of fixtures and, as such, no compensation is required, particularly if people at home are suddenly watching on television rather than going to games.

They may contend Seven's desperation to end the contract was forced upon them because the station is in the midst of a debt crisis which stretches well beyond their cricket deal.

CA may also contend that if Seven paid too much for the rights that was their decision and primarily the result of market forces.

No-one put Seven executives in a full Nelson and ordered them to sign.

The only certainty for Cricket Australia is that the glory years of television rights routinely doubling every half decade are over. The goose has laid its last golden egg.

Tough challenges lie ahead and the shockwaves will seep through to every level of the game.

Originally published as Crash: Why the glory days are over as cricket hits crisis point



‘Evil monster’ bashes family’s pet while they sleep

Premium Content ‘Evil monster’ bashes family’s pet while they sleep

Jennifer Althaus woke to find her greyhound seriously injured

Murder trial continues despite accused's health concerns

Premium Content Murder trial continues despite accused's health concerns

THE North Coast man allegedly fatally stabbed his ex-partner in 2018.

Border warning as troops pull out

Premium Content Border warning as troops pull out

Border delays expected as state opens and ADF pulls out