Star turn: Cricket Australia to land $250m deal for broadcast rights in India

A broadcast deal worth more than $250 million is in the final stages of being cut between Cricket Australia and Disney Star, after the network outbid Sony for the chance to beam Australian summers into India.

Sources close to Cricket Australia and the broadcaster confirmed to The Age and The Sydney Morning Herald the formal agreement was imminent and may be concluded by the end of this week. The deal will cover both television and digital rights.

India’s tours to Australia were central to the value of the deal.Credit:AP

Disney Star’s return to ownership of the Australian broadcast rights provided a late twist. Sony was widely expected to extend the deal it had signed with Cricket Australia in 2017 – a bargain that had turned out to be worth $40 million less than the governing body originally anticipated.

This seemed doubly likely after Sony missed out in the auction for several rights packages to the Indian Premier League, which sold for an eye-popping $US6.2 billion ($8.8 billion) last month.

Multiple Indian broadcasters had assembled enormous war chests to buy the rights to the IPL in the June auction, and Star was successful in retaining the television rights to the tournament, although it lost out for the burgeoning digital market to Viacom.

That turn of events still left Disney Star with a significant parcel of cash to commit to international rights. Australia’s proved valuable given that Cricket Australia had secured, as previously reported by The Age and The Sydney Morning Herald, a combined 20 home Test matches against India and England over the next rights cycle, as opposed to 13 during the current period.

A delegation comprising Cricket Australia’s chair Lachlan Henderson, fellow director and broadcast rights strategist Richard Freudenstein and chief executive Nick Hockley, had visited India either side of this year’s IPL final in late May, to meet with broadcasters including Disney Star, Sony and Viacom.

However, the rights race only took on realistic dimensions once the IPL broadcast auction had taken place over the Queen’s Birthday weekend in mid-June. To that point, Sony had appeared a safe option as a long-term partner.

Once it became clear that Star still had plenty of IPL money left over, talks began that are now set to end in a formal deal that will help bankroll Australian cricket over the next decade.

After the Australian rights, those into India’s vast and ravenous market for cricket are the next most vital for Cricket Australia to secure.

Over the past 20 years from their value has increased around $35 million to $85 million and then up to $140 million for the cycle including the 2014-15 India tour of Australia. In 2017, CA signed a six-year deal then estimated to be worth around $150 million with Sony.

Last year it was revealed that the agreement was in fact only worth about $110 million because the fine print included the playing of extra matches between Australia and India that were not a part of the globally agreed schedule and did not ultimately take place.

Combined with COVID-19 costs, the shortfall formed part of a $90 million revenue hole over the next two years that cricket administrators have been trying to address through budget trimming. A legal fight with Seven West Media, which is seeking a discount to its rights fee, has also clouded the immediate future.

A Cricket Australia spokesperson declined to comment.

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