Seven West Media Limited (ASX: SWM), through its subsidiary Seven Network (Operations) Limited (Seven) has filed court proceedings in the Federal Court of Australia against Cricket Australia (CA) in relation to what it says are multiple quality and standards breaches by CA of Seven’s six-year Media Rights Agreement (MRA) with Cricket Australia, an agreement which includes an annual cash rights cost of AUD$75 million per annum.
The SWM proceedings will seek both:
- a court declaration that Seven is entitled to terminate the MRA on the basis of material contract breaches by CA which were not remedied; and
- damages arising out of past breaches.
Seven previously obtained preliminary discovery proceedings in the Federal Court relating to the claims.
Seven says its intention is to terminate the MRA, conditional on the Federal Court granting a declaration that Seven is entitled to do so. Seven says it has the right to waive this condition, but that the damages action is not conditional.
Seven says it will continue to perform its obligations under the MRA (in terms of telecasting Tests and BBL matches, etc.) until terminated.
Seven says it has pursued the informal resolution procedure under the MRA, but the procedure failed to resolved the dispute.
Cricket Australia signed the historic six-year agreement (which commenced in 2018) with Seven West Media and Fox Sports Australia. The agreement saw cricket coverage shift from the Nine Network for the first time in 40 years.
Under the deal, Seven West Media’s domestic free-to-air broadcast rights include:
- 43 of the 59 Big Bash League matches, including all marquee matches and finals
- All home international tests, including the 2021-22 home Ashes series
- Key Women’s Big Bash League and International matches
- The Allan Border Medal and Belinda Clark Award ceremonies
Meanwhile, Fox Sports Australia gained rights to simulcast every home Test and women’s international in conjunction with the Seven Network, as well as exclusively broadcast every home one-day and Twenty20 international the men’s team plays. Fox Sports also had rights to the entirety of the Big Bash League (16 matches exclusively) and simulcasting 23 Women’s Big Bash League matches with the Seven Network.
In response to the Federal Court action, Cricket Australia says it is “… extremely disappointed that our broadcast partner, the Seven Network, has commenced legal proceedings against CA in relation to recent COVID-impacted cricket seasons.
“CA delivered two very successful cricket seasons in 2020-21 and 2021-22, including every WBBL and BBL game (a total of 240 games over two seasons) and highly acclaimed international schedules, despite the enormous challenges presented by the global pandemic.
“In the circumstances, CA is astonished that Seven has brought this unwarranted action which will be strenuously defended.
“CA remains enormously proud of the efforts of the Australian Cricket family including players, match officials, sponsors, stadium operators, host governments, staff and volunteers whose hard work, dedication and expertise allowed us to deliver two exceptional cricket seasons in unprecedented circumstances.”
Cricket Australia says it is looking forward to the upcoming Australian summer season which will include hosting the ICC Men’s T20 World Cup as defending champions, welcoming a record six international touring teams to Australia, as well as the eighth and twelfth editions of WBBL and BBL respectively.