Channel 7 has launched Federal Court proceedings against Cricket Australia in an ugly new twist to their $450 million broadcast deal war.
Channel 7 has now dragged the Board of Control for Cricket in India into the nasty spat, claiming the BCCI manipulated the summer schedule.
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The free-to-air broadcaster on Monday night lodged an application for discovery to see emails between CA, the BCCI, Foxtel and state governments.
Seven believe CA gave in to the wishes of the BCCI to start the men’s summer with white-ball matches rather than Tests, which are behind a paywall and broadcast on Foxtel.
Under the original schedule announced in May, the men’s summer did have a white-ball start with Twenty20s against West Indies and India, before the T20 World Cup.
However, those matches were cancelled when the T20 World Cup was postponed due to COVID-19, as well as a one-off Test against Afghanistan in Perth.
It prompted CA to move the one-day and T20 matches against India to before the Test series, leaving Seven without an international match until December 17.
Fox Sports has exclusive rights to limited-overs matches and share the Tests with Seven.
“Channel 7 claims this change was driven by the BCCI, and has hurt Seven’s product because it has had to wait until December 17 to launch a major summer against drawcards India and means there will be no international build-up for the BBL before it kicks off on December 10,” the Daily Telegraph reports.
Cricket Australia hits back
However, on Tuesday evening, CA boss Nick Hockley responded, with the organisation growing tired of the drama being played out in public after more than three months of dispute between the parties.
"With so much positivity around Australian cricket, it is disappointing that Seven West Media has again chosen to use the media to talk our wonderful game down," Hockley said.
"CA has maintained all along our commitment to delivering a thrilling summer of cricket and on behalf of all involved, be that governments, partners, players and staff.
"I'm proud to say we are doing just that.
"In the most challenging environment sport has faced, with the support of our friends at the BCCI, CA has ensured that the much-anticipated series with India can go ahead safely."
Fresh twist in Channel 7’s $450m war with Cricket Australia
Seven’s latest move puts at risk the $450 million rights deal between the two organisations, of which the TV network pays $70 million per year.
The play is also separate to that of the one before an independent arbitrator, where Seven are trying to push down the price of their rights for this year.
CA had already offered a 20 per cent discount due to changes caused by the pandemic but that was rejected.
A finding from that arbitrator is expected within weeks, however, that may not be final given it is understood CA could question the power of Australian Centre for International Commercial Arbitration.
It comes at a time where the sport has delivered early wins to start the summer.
Saturday night’s WBBL final between the Sydney Thunder and Melbourne Stars was the third most watched WBBL game in history, pulling in almost 429,000 viewers.
That came despite Seven only showing it on their secondary channel of 7mate, a move that frustrated several within CA.
Sunday’s ODI audience of 585,000 for the clash between Australia and India made it the most watched cricket match in Foxtel’s history.
The ODI ratings - which were the third highest of any sports program in Foxtel’s history - resulted in the Pay TV broadcaster praising CA for its scheduling.
“Beginning the summer with the white ball has proven to be a hugely successful formula for Cricket Australia,” Fox Sports executive director Steve Crawley said.
“On Wednesday, we're off to Canberra for the final men's ODI then three T20s, all exclusive to Fox Cricket leading into the First Test.
“It's a ripper schedule and already fans are loving it.”
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