Cricket Australia’s ball-tampering scandal could provide a huge windfall for television broadcasters at the expense of the governing body, according to one expert.
Dr Michael Naraine, a researcher within Deakin University’s Centre for Sport Research, has kept a close eye on Cricket Australia’s broadcast rights bidding process, and said the scandal could not have come at a worse time for Cricket Australia.
“Tender bids for the broadcast rights across all forms of cricket were submitted just over a week ago,” he said.
“Cricket Australia had been hoping for $1 billion cumulatively for the broadcast rights, but after this weekend’s scandal, I estimate that figure could be as low as $500 million, with a ceiling of $800 million.”
“It’s safe to say that the major players would have bid for the forms of cricket they’ve long been known for – Nine Network for international test cricket, Ten Network for Big Bash League and T20.”
Naraine said the two key players in particular – Ten and Foxtel – could now be in the box seat, particularly now that Ten has CBS behind it.
“We know that CBS has been losing out on some sports rights in the United States, so they may have been saving up for a shiny new cricket deal,” he said.
“Foxtel is a wild card. It’s certainly looking to increase its subscriber rates and offering a 24-hour cricket channel – especially if they were able to partner up with Nine or Ten for their coverage – would be a great way to do that.”
Naraine’s comments come after Cricket Australia rejected a joint bid for the rights from Nine and Ten.
According to Naraine, the question now is not if the scandal will damage the value of cricket broadcasting rights, but by how much.
“The bids are in, but broadcasters could now say to Cricket Australia ‘hold on, the public is furious with the test team, sponsors are dropping out; we don’t think the rights are worth that amount anymore, let’s talk’,” he said.
“Cricket Australia was obviously looking to extract as much money from the broadcast partners as humanly possible, and that’s why they split up the broadcast packages on offer, effectively offering two different product lines – international tests as one offering and T20 and BBL as another.
“I was initially sceptical about this approach as Cricket Australia ran the risk of losing control over the presentation and narrative of the sport if it was dealing with multiple broadcasters simultaneously, instead of just one network which would air multiple matches simultaneously across a number of free-to-air channels.
“In hindsight though, as we consider the fallout from the ball-tampering scandal, they look like geniuses.
“Cricket Australia will be at pains to separate T20 and BBL – the forms of cricket seeing the most growth – from the international men’s team as the scandal plays out. This would protect the value of the T20 and BBL rights, which I estimate at around $300 million.”
Naraine said that while the full effects of the ball-tampering scandal on cricket’s reputation may not be known for a while, one thing was certain.
“Despite the fact that this is a huge issue and a lot of traditionalist cricket fans in Australia are up in arms and calling for the team to take off their baggy greens, fans will continue to watch cricket,” he said.
“This isn’t going to stop people watching cricket either internationally or at home which means the broadcast rights will always be valuable and hard-won.”