Nine pinches tennis rights from Seven in $300m deal

Nine has entered an agreement with Tennis Australia to broadcast all premium tennis played in Australia between 2020 and 2024.

The exclusive agreement will cost Nine $60m per annum over the five years and sees the end of Tennis Australia’s relationship with Seven, which has lasted more than 40 years.

Nine has triumphed over Seven in the battle for tennis rights

From 2020, Nine will have free-to-air, streaming, mobile and social media rights to tournaments including the Australian Open, Hopman Cup, Davis Cup, Fed Cup and the Brisbane, Sydney and Hobart Internationals.

Hugh Marks, CEO of Nine said the tennis audience was a perfect fit for Nine.

“The timing of tennis, and the audience demographics, are a perfect fit with Nine’s audience and advertisers,” he said.

Tennis Australia CEO Craig Tiley said this is a landmark deal.

“Four years ago, we brought the host broadcast for all our events in-house and this success has allowed us to unlock even more value in our domestic media rights. Our objective going into this process was a growth plan for exposure across the key planks of both tennis and non-tennis content, and the Nine offer best met these requirements. Nine’s commitment to additional tennis programming year-round was also aligned to our strategy.

“There are components within this new agreement which we believe will help us further grow our events and the sport of tennis.”

Tom Malone, Nine’s director of sport, said in an internal memo the network may sub-license some of the rights “on terms suitable to Nine”.

He also noted the new deal does not mean the network has given up on cricket.

“It does not mean we won’t continue to pursue cricket,” the email said. “We are still in a good position on cricket, and we still have a desire to secure rights to cricket at the right price and terms. As Hugh said all along, we won’t be paying more money for sports rights, but we can afford to pay money for sports rights if it’s on terms which enable us to distribute and commercialise the content across all platforms.”

Malone noted despite the battle for cricket broadcast rights, and the scandal surrounding the Australian team at the moment, the network was still in a good position with the sport.

“We also still have rights to the upcoming premium cricket events – 2019 ODI World Cup in England, and both T20 World Cups in Australia in 202, and we are the exclusive rights holder to the 2019 Ashes in England, which will mark the first time Steve Smith and Dave Warner will be eligible to play Test cricket again.”

After its financial results last year, Seven West Media’s CEO Tim Worner warned the days of big rights deals for sport are over.

He said market changes meant sports rights would no longer command a premium and that administrators would have to weigh-up the value that broadcasting on free-to-air television gives to the sport.

“These sports have to start to recognise the power that we bring to them,” he said in August last year.

“Now I think it’s fair to say that sports rights have reached a tipping point in this country.

“Sports rights are undeniably valuable, but free-to-air broadcast also brings incredible value to these sporting codes. Given changes in the market, price rises are not sustainable. The tennis for example is a great launch platform, the US Masters, the NFL and the Superbowl – these are great events. But we have to reach a position where the economics stand up for all parties, where the power and the reach that free-to-air television brings to these sports is recognised.”

Seven has subsequently responded to the news, with a spokesperson saying the network has provided tennis with “many milestones to grow the game.”

Seven said:

“We have an incredibly long and proud history with Australian tennis. We have delivered so many milestones to grow the game. 

“Seven was the first to deliver the game on multi-channels, the first to live stream and the first to deliver every single match across the screens of Seven to every Australian, along with consistently innovating the broadcast on the way.

“Our strategy of delivering value for our shareholders and engagement for our clients remains firm. We build brands and we create success for our partners, and will continue to do so.

“But, we have been consistent and steady in what we have said about the economics of sports rights – the deal has to make commercial sense or we will step away.”                       

“We wish Nine and everyone at Tennis Australia good luck.”


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