An Australian television blackout of the World Twenty20 scheduled to be held in India next month could be avoided if Rupert Murdoch’s Star TV accepts a bid from Channel Nine that is well below its asking price or decides to sell coverage as a standalone item in a last-minute deal that could see the broadcasting rights go to Fox Sports.
As Fairfax Media has revealed, Australian cricket fans could well miss out on the opportunity of watching Steve Smith and co. strive to win the only major trophy that has eluded the Aussies. There has been a breakdown in negotiations with less than three weeks to go for the Tournament proper to begin.
The reluctance on the part of Australian networks to acquire the WorldT20 rights is because the rights to broadcast the upcoming World T20 has not been offered as a separate event to Australian networks by the ICC rights-holder Star but as the first part of a cumulative package of major international cricketing events over the next 7 years that also includes the 2019 and 2023 Cricket World Cups as well as the 2020 World T20 to be held in Australia.
With the key matches of the World T20 beginning at 1:30 am Australian time, broadcasters are reluctant to invest in a tournament that does not hold great appeal given the post-midnight timing. But the presence of the 2020 World T20 on home turf in the package means there has been local interest.
The Indian TV giant Star TV spent a reported $US1.98 billion to acquire global rights to ICC events between 2015 to 2023 and is clearly aiming to recoup most of that record outlay from broadcasters around the globe. Channel Nine are believed to have made a “strong” bid, but it was well below Star’s asking price.
Aside from the huge asking price, the other complicating factor is the presence of the ICC tournaments on Australia’s anti-siphoning list.
That effectively rules Fox Sports out of the running for the rights package the networks have been offered because of the stipulation that Australian matches at such major tournaments be shown on free-to-air television.
However, if Star are pushed into a corner and decided to sell the event separately, Fox Sports may come into the picture to save the day.
Sky TV in New Zealand have already acquired the rights for the mega event, and Cricket Australia is hopeful that an agreement would be reached soon.
“It’s our priority to have matches involving the Australian men’s and women’s teams broadcast to fans around the country,” a Cricket Australia spokesman said.
“We are seeking regular updates from the ICC and Star India, and remain hopeful it can be resolved in the best interests of Australian cricket fans.”