Australia news – Channel Seven takes Cricket Australia to court to end TV broadcast deal

Cricket Australia’s free-to-air television channel Channel Seven has filed suit in the Federal Court of Australia to terminate their A$82 million-per-year broadcast contract, which runs for two years, over “multiple quality and standards violations”.

The move through the network continues a long-running battle between Seven and CA that began in 2020 after the start of the Covid-19 pandemic.

Seven West Media, the owner of Channel Seven, released a statement Thursday confirming that they have escalated their stance against CA.

Seven West Media Limited, through its subsidiary Seven Network (Operations) Limited (Seven), has initiated legal proceedings in the Federal Court of Australia against Cricket Australia (CA) alleging multiple quality and standard violations by CA of Seven’s Media Rights Agreement with CA (MRA),’ the statement said.

“The SWM proceeding will seek both: a judicial declaration that Seven has the right to terminate the MRA on the basis of material breaches of contract by CA that have not been remedied; and damages arising from prior breaches. Seven previously obtained preliminary discovery proceedings in the federal court regarding the claims.

“It is Seven’s intent to terminate the MRA, provided the Federal Court issues a statement that Seven is entitled to do so. Seven reserves the right to waive this condition. The claim for damages is not conditional. Seven will terminate its obligations under the MRA (in terms of broadcasting Tests and BBL etc.).

“Seven has followed the informal dispute settlement procedure under the MRA, but the procedure has not resolved the dispute.”

Cricket Australia replied that they would fight the action, stating that they were “amazed” at Seven’s position after two seasons were delivered amid the challenges of the pandemic.

“Cricket Australia (CA) is aware of reports that our broadcast partner, the Seven Network, has initiated legal proceedings against CA in connection with recent cricket seasons affected by COVID-19,” the statement said.

“CA delivered two highly successful cricket seasons in 2020-21 and 2021-22, including every WBBL and BBL match (a total of 240 matches over two seasons) and critically acclaimed international schedules, despite the huge challenges posed by the global pandemic.

“In the circumstances, CA is surprised that Seven has taken this unwarranted action which will be defended with force.”

Seven signed a six-year deal in 2018 to be CA’s free-to-air broadcast partner with subscription provider Foxtel, but has been keen to end the deal in recent years. In late 2020, Seven CA sued an independent arbitrator demanding major cuts on their A$82 million-per-year share of the A$1.18 billion deal signed with Foxtel in April 2018.

The arbitrator, Justin Jameson of Venture Consulting, concluded that Seven should receive only a A$5 million discount on the A$70 million cut the network was pursuing.

The “quality and standards violations” are believed to surround the BBL, which has declined in popularity since Seven began broadcasting it in 2018-19, although ratings have remained relatively good compared to other Australian sports leagues.

Part of CA’s drive to revive the BBL this year, through initiatives such as the overseas draft, is with the next TV rights cycle in mind when the current deal with Seven and Foxtel expires in 2024.

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