While Nine secured the tennis broadcast rights from 2020 to 2024 in a massive $300 million deal in March, it has become uncertain which TV network gets next year’s Australian Open.
Originally, there was speculation Seven would relinquish the last year of its tennis rights deal to Nine.
However, that rumour appeared to have been quashed after Seven West Media CEO Tim Worner said in May that the network would have both the tennis and the cricket in 2019, leaving Nine with no summer sport.
Now, it has come to light that Seven and Nine are in discussions about which network will air next year’s Australian Open.
Why would Seven look to give the Open to Nine? Well, the network would face some serious scheduling headaches if it holds on to the tennis for one more year, having just bagged the cricket with Fox Sports.
It could also provide some much-needed financial relief for Seven, which announced it would increase its cost-cutting target by $25 million over the next two financial years in February.
The company is also looking to introduce pay cuts and shake up working conditions through negotiations around its enterprise agreement, following the big money cricket rights deal.
But there will be one other party involved in the discussions between Seven and Nine, with a clause in the broadcast rights contract for the Australian Open requiring Tennis Australia to get involved, according to Fairfax.
This would potentially allow the sporting body to overrule any decisions made by Seven, while sources have told Fairfax that Seven’s contract with Tennis Australia requires the event to be aired on Channel Seven.
Seven declined to comment when contacted by B&T, while Nine is yet to reply.