All those camera angles don't come cheap. Nor do the salaries of the former cricket captains telling you how good it was in their day.
On Wednesday, it emerged that Nine could be losing up to $40 million a year on its cricket coverage. Here's what UBS media analyst Eric Choi wrote in a note to clients:
"The existing cricket deal costs Nine circa $100 million per annum. We estimate the existing deal likely only generates gross revenues of $60-$70 million.
We think it would seem logical for Nine to enter negotiations with the following mindset: i) More cricket content at no additional cost, or ii) to step away from the cricket contract."
So there you have it. An analyst with a leading investment bank has pretty much raised the umpire's finger and dismissed Nine from the crease if Nine can't get a better deal. So does Nine accept the umpire's verdict? Unlikely.
Channel 9 is of course synonymous with cricket. It was Nine boss Kerry Packer who revolutionised not just cricket coverage but the game itself with World Series Cricket in the 1970s. Nine gave us Bill Lawry, the late Tony Greig and the late Richie Benaud. These people all transcended their craft.
But cricket on Nine has become stale. If you've never read the all-time takedown of its cricket coverage published two years ago in The Guardian, it's time you did.
And while Nine's international cricket coverage calcified, Ten snapped up the Big Bash rights in 2013 for a paltry $20 million per season, and freshened cricket coverage with everything from female commentators to less stodgy work apparel.
Meanwhile, under its existing five-year deal, Nine continues to shell out $90 million plus each year for its suite of international cricket, which includes Tests and the increasingly poor-rating One-Dayers.
Nine's director of sport Tom Malone said last year the network wants "everything" in the next rights deal, which will be negotiated in 2018. That means Tests, One-Dayers, Big Bash, the lot. There was speculation earlier this year the entire deal could be worth $800 million over five years.
The actual figure will almost certainly be much lower than that, and here's why.
Advertising revenues in commercial television have dropped rapidly in recent years. Channel Ten has financial issues, which mean it may not bid at all, while Seven has other eggs in its sporting basket which includes AFL and the Olympic and Commonwealth Games.
With anti-siphoning laws protecting cricket (for now) from being taken off free-to-air TV, Nine may end up as the only bidder for cricket. As Fairfax concisely put it:
"Without competitive tension, Cricket Australia faces an auction with just one bidder. Therein lies a disaster for any vendor needing a sale."
A disaster indeed.
The glass half empty scenario here is a national body facing reduced TV rights revenue (which would have all sorts of flow-ons). Meanwhile TV viewers could be stuck with the same old, same old, across all three cricket formats -- after briefly being tantalised by the fresher, friendlier, less insider/clubby vibe of Ten.
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