But Mr Worner said public criticism about the deal comes down to a “misunderstanding” of the list. Mr Worner said that because Seven has the rights to broadcast these two sports but is choosing to allow Foxtel to show them exclusively as part of the deal, the deal does not contravene the rules.
“It’s not a list that means certain events will end up on freeTV or not – it’s the same list for NRL and AFL,” Mr Worner said.
In 2015, rights to the AFL were won by Seven and Foxtel, in a $2.5 billion six-year deal, and Nine Entertainment Co and Foxtel secured the rights to broadcast NRL for $1.8 billion.
Both deals allow Foxtel to show some games exclusively, in what Mr Worner considers a “similar” situation to the cricket deal.
The commentary team has been one of the “biggest discussions” at Seven over the weekend as they try to figure out who will make the cut.
“I grew up playing cricket and I love cricket and I have my favourite commentators but it’s not about me,” Mr Worner said.
“Sometimes sports people can become almost robots because the audience never gets to know them and that’s something we will work hard on to make sure it doesn’t happen.”
There is industry speculation Seven could lose up to $30 million a year on the deal, but Mr Worner brushed off these claims.
“The first thing the losers do is come up with a hundred reasons why it’s a bad deal,” Mr Worner said.
Mr Worner said a united approach by Seven and the Rupert Murdoch-controlled Foxtel would provide opportunities to make savings. “Two huge production set-ups won’t make any sense,” he said.
“The fact of the matter is, we’re very aware of what Ten wrote in the Big Bash League and what Nine used to write. We’re going to be the only network selling both those properties and the response from advertisers has been excellent.
“For the first time there will be no sales team from Nine and no sales team from Ten fighting against each other for advertisers.”
Nine recently won the Tennis Australian Open broadcast rights after making an offer of $60 million which was about 50 per cent higher than the previous deal done by Seven. Nine also bought the digital rights and described cross-platform rights as one of the reasons it was bullish about the sport.
Seven did not secure digital rights as part of the cricket deal, which have been handed over to Foxtel. This means its audience will not be able to watch cricket on Seven’s streaming platform.
“For online viewing of the tennis, it’s only one per cent of the audience, so 98 per cent [plus] of the audience is on free-to-air television. That’s where we write the vast majority of revenue,” Mr Worner said.
“We made a considered decision on what we felt [digital rights] were worth, and they’re obviously worth a lot more to Foxtel.”
Mr Worner said his experience with AFL had helped with the cricket negotiations and given him confidence Seven could achieve solid ratings even when in a simulcast arrangement with Foxtel. Mr Worner said ratings were up 8 per cent in 2017 for simulcasted AFL matches.
“A lot of growth in the AFL audience last year was from women and the first [cricket] match is women’s international,” he said. “So we will definitely have diversity in terms of gender in the commentary team.”
Jennifer Duke writes about media and telecommunications.
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