Cricket’s TV rights up for grabs
FOR the first time in four decades the shadow of Kerry Packer is not hovering over Australia's cricket broadcast rights.
Channel Nine are in for everything in this rights deals but if they do land the big prize (perhaps with the help of Fox Sports), it will not be a case of "doing it for Kerry'' or being chained to a legacy.
For three decades worth of cricket rights Packer was often there in person, taking Cricket Australia officials out to dinner before declaring "right, how does this sound?" before slapping his offer on the table.
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It always sounded good, probably better than it was, particularly in the early years of the 1980s.
CA never went to the market, partially because they were not game to.
Packer scared them. Even if his offer was not outstanding, they often took it without even bargaining.
And even when he was gone he was, in a sense, still there.
Packer died in 2005 but even after his death there was still a theory Nine simply could never afford to lose cricket.
When Nine boss David Gyngell, whose father Bruce was such a great friend of Packer's that Kerry cried at his funeral, negotiated the last rights deal the ghost of Packer was still hovering.
Gyngell understandably did not want to be the first Nine chief executive to lose the cricket rights.
But to retain them he had to pull off a mini-Houdini act including buying two television stations in the final week of negotiations.
This time, however, it's different.
The declaration by Nine boss Hugh Marks in The Australian that Nine would "have to make a rational decision'' on the rights if the price became "uneconomic for us'' was proof that Nine, now a public company, are more sensitised to the needs of their shareholders than any notion that they must sell the farm, so to speak, to keep the cricket.
Marks insists there is a Plan B if Nine lose the cricket and Nine is well positioned to take it having its share price hit a two-year high.
It was reported that Nine are interested in joining Fox in a deal which would see the Big Bash shared.
Just as Nine are hoping to land all the cricket so are CBS, owners of Channel Ten, expected to make a play for all rights.
Ten did this last time and succeeded in taking the gas out of Nine by bidding against them for the Test rights and landing the Big Bash.
Just what the rights are worth remains a matter of great conjecture with television stations pointing to the decline in Sky television's rights for the English Premier League soccer in England.