Seven West Media has attempted to blow up its $450 million media rights deal with Cricket Australia, arguing in fresh court proceedings that the sporting body breached its contract and undermined the success of the Big Bash League.
In proceedings filed in the Federal Court, Seven claims that CA breached its contract relating to quality and standards of the BBL, which has struggled to generate high TV ratings.
“Seven’s intention is to terminate the [media rights agreement], conditional on the Federal Court granting a declaration that Seven is entitled to do so,” a statement on the ASX, approved by the board, said.
In the statement of claim, obtained by this masthead, Seven alleges CA was required to use all “reasonable endeavours” to make sure BBL matches on Seven were of the highest quality and standard in the world.
Seven alleges CA breached its agreement by scheduling One Day International Matches and International Twenty20 Matches (both which run on Foxtel), which affected the availability of high-profile players for the BBL and hurt its chances of maximising audiences.
It also alleges that by imposing a salary cap – $1.77 million in 2018/2019, $1.82 million in 2019/2020 and $1.8 million – CA prevented the BBL from attracting players of the “highest quality and standard in the world”. By comparison, the salary cap for the Indian Premier League’s 2019 season was $16.7 million. The cap was $17 million in 2019/2020 and 2020/2021.
Seven also alleges that by revising the summer schedule it was unable to leverage the big audiences of key Test matches to grow the BBL’s viewership. The network, controlled by billionaire Kerry Stokes is seeking the deal to be terminated and damages for past breaches.
It is basing these allegations on a series of meetings between Seven and CA executives and email exchanges between 2019 and 2021. One email chain between Alistair Dobson, CA’s general manager for BBL and Peter Roach, CA’s head of cricket operations, the former warns that several scheduling changes would be “unmitigated disasters for the BBL”.
Another email in the statement of claim, sent by CA chief executive Nick Hockley in October 2020, concedes BBL games in Tasmania would go against “commercial optimisation”. “We have already significantly comprised the entire BBL season by starting in Tas…the overall interests of the League would have been better served starting the season in Sydney given the opening nights are far and away the most important of the entire tournament.”
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