Nine sports boss: Tennis and cricket can work together on the one network

Nine is confident it will be able to run both cricket and tennis across summer on the one network, sports boss Tom Malone has said.

The broadcaster – which announced this afternoon it had nabbed the rights to all premium tennis tournaments from Seven – is optimistic about a future with both cricket and tennis across its platforms.

Malone is confident the network can run both cricket and tennis across summer, should Nine obtain the cricket rights

The exclusive agreement will cost Nine $60m per annum over the five years between 2020 and 2024, ending Seven’s relationship with Tennis Australia after more than 40 years.

A piece in The Australian has reported Seven decided against matching Nine’s bid over the tennis.

Nine and Tennis Australia’s agreement comes on a dark day for Cricket Australia, who have just suspended captain Steve Smith, vice captain David Warner and opening batsman Cameron Bancroft over a ball tampering incident in South Africa. The sports body also lost major naming rights sponsor Magellan Financial Group over the scandal.

At the same time, Cricket Australia’s broadcasting deal is currently on the table.

On Friday last week, The Australian Financial Review reported Cricket Australia has rejected a joint bid from Nine and Ten.

Nine’s Malone, who spoke to Mumbrella following the press briefing, said the timing of the Tennis Australia rights win and Cricket Australia’s ball tampering scandal is “coincidental”, noting the network has confidence in Cricket Australia’s ability to resolve the ongoing issue.

“We started this discussion in mid March. It’s something that we’ve pursued with them [Cricket Australia] pretty aggressively because of the appeal of the nature of the rights and the strategic benefit to Nine. What’s happened with cricket in the last few days is unfortunate but we’ve got confidence in Cricket Australia’s handling of the matter and we are certainly still interested in pursuing a relationship with cricket over the coming years,” he said.

His comments echoed Nine boss Hugh Marks, who said he would like to see Nine’s history with Australian cricket extended.

“It will depend upon in all instances, how the broadcast partnerships ends up working in each sport,” Marks said in a press briefing.

“There’s room for more than one broadcaster in every event, that’s the new world we are in today. And the fact the world of 40 years ago when it was free-to-air television and nothing else, doesn’t exist.

Malone added the company was still interested in a conversation with cricket to “complement” the new rights deal.

“We think tennis and cricket can work together on the one network. Obviously you have to get the content mix right but that’s something we are confident we can do in partnership with other parties. We’ll just have to have those discussions as we move forward,” he said.

“We’ll still pursue that relationship with cricket and again if we can do a deal with cricket that reflects the changing nature of media and consumption and how we commercialise those rights then that’ll be a success for Nine as well.”

Nine has scored itself a five -ear broadcasting rights deal with Tennis Australia

Malone refered to the idea of a cross-platform deal with cricket, a similar structure to what Nine has landed with Tennis Australia.

“That is the future of broadcast deals. It’s a landmark deal – that deal hasn’t been done anywhere before and we’ll be able to look to include other partners on that be it pay TV, or a telco or social media platforms,” Malone said.

“We have to have the ability to commercialise all rights across all platforms anytime, anywhere because you have to be able to reach the consumer wherever they are consuming the content. And that’s what’s unique about this deal that we’ve done with Tennis Australia. They understand our objectives, we understand their objectives and there’s great alignment and partnership between Nine and Tennis Australia.”

But aside from that, Malone said the new partnership with Tennis Australia was of benefit as it is becoming a proper festival, with strategic benefits in terms of demographics.

A partnership of this sort will also boost Nine’s start to each calendar year, giving highly successful reality show Married at First Sight a hefty boost.

“What they do around food music and kids, more than a million people through the gates over the next two weeks is just extraordinary,” Malone said.

“Beyond that there’s a strategic benefit to Nine is terms of the audience demographic – it’s a 50/50 male, female split. It comes at a concentrated time of year and the right time of the year in terms of launching the ratings year into other programming. There are so many benefits to this deal that Nine sees around the content, the type of rights we’ve secured and the timing of the content and the strategic benefit it provides.”

On the specifics of the deal and any differences between Nine and Seven’s coverage, Malone added: “What we’ll seek to do with Tennis Australia is help innovate the sport around how it is consumed, graphically, visually, look at some of the greatest technologies that we can help bring to the sport with them.”


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