An Australian television blackout of the World Twenty20 championship in India could be avoided if Rupert Murdoch’s Star TV accepts a bid from Channel Nine that is well below its asking price or makes a late decision to sell coverage as a standalone item in a last-minute deal that could see it end up on Fox Sports.
With less than three weeks until the tournament starts there has been a stalemate in negotiations which, as Fairfax Media revealed this week, threatens to leave Australian viewers without the opportunity to watch Steve Smith’s team try to win the only major trophy that has eluded it.
The WorldT20 rights have been offered not as a separate event to Australian networks by the ICC rights-holder Star but as the first part of a package of major international events over the next seven years that also includes the next two 50-over World Cups, in 2019 and 2023, and, importantly, the 2020 World T20 to be hosted by Australia.
Next month’s tournament in India does not hold great appeal for broadcasters here as most of the key matches will begin at 1.30am Australian time but the presence of the 2020 World T20 – the first time the event will have been held in Australia – in the offering by Star means there has been local interest.
Nine was believed to have made a bid that according to industry figures was “strong”, but it was well below what Star was chasing.
The Indian TV giant spent a reported $US1.98 billion on global rights to ICC events from 2015 to 2023 and is clearly aiming to recoup as much of that record outlay around the world as possible.
Aside from the 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 being a player 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, with the World T20 in India dropping off the anti-siphoning list due to rights not being sold within 12 weeks of the first match, Fox could be in the picture to prevent a blackout if Star, backed into a corner, now chooses to pluck the tournament out of the package and flog it separately.
Sky TV in New Zealand on Thursday said it had secured the rights to show the World T20 across the Tasman and Australia’s governing body, while not involved in the process, is hopeful a solution will be reached here.
“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.”