The Fairfax Radio Network (FRN) has secured rights to broadcast cricket for the next five years.
The FRN which includes Melbourne’s 3AW, Sydney’s 2UE, Brisbane’s 4BC and Perth’s 6PR will have live ball-by-ball coverage of:
The new deal will see international fixtures broadcast across the FRN, while most KFC BBL matches will be aired to the markets of the teams playing the fixture (similar to ABC’s coverage of the A-League), as well as nationally via DAB+ digital radio. The FRN will also engage with regional stations to negotiate a syndication deal, including for the Adelaide market, where it does not hold an AM radio licence. One would expect it to sign a deal with DMG Radio’s 5AA. FRN’s coverage will also be available on cricket.com.au and Cricket Australia’s new (but still unreleased) cricket app.
For those who enjoy the Australian Broadcasting Corporation’s (ABC) Grandstand coverage of the summer of cricket, it will continue on a non-exclusive basis, with Grandstand providing commercial-free coverage of the Australia v England test series, ODIs and T20 Internationals, along with the Women’s Ashes and T20 Internationals.
Former Southern Cross Austereo General Manager of Melbourne Operations and now Cricket Australia Executive General Manager – Media, Communications & Marketing Ben Amarfio said the new deal between,
“…Cricket Australia and Fairfax Radio Network marks an exciting new chapter for cricket in Australia and offers followers of the game even more ways to enjoy the cricket action this summer.”
Mr Amarfio also indicated that there were likely to be more radio rights agreements announced in the lead up to the summer of cricket. With non-commercial and commercial AM radio rights covered, it is likely the next announcement will be for an FM broadcast partner. It would not be surprising to see Southern Cross Austereo’s Triple M network sign some sort of broadcast agreement with Cricket Australia. The Triple M network has led the way in recent years with sports broadcasting on the FM band with its AFL and NRL coverage.
While many have commented on the ABC’s loss of exclusive radio rights for cricket and what this means for coverage of the game in Australia, the new deal with the FRN brings Australia’s summer sport into line with the winter football codes and other sports broadcasts such as the Olympics. The AFL and NRL have radio rights agreements with the ABC and commercial AM/FM stations, while in recent times Summer Olympic coverage has been available on the ABC (as non-commercial rights holders) and the Macquarie Radio Network (2GB) (as commercial rights holders).
There is no word yet on the make-up of the FRN’s commentary team or how it will integrate advertisers into its ball-by-ball coverage.
By only purchasing the test match rights for matches in Melbourne and Sydney, it is clear that the FRN wants to minimise interruption to its normal programming (leaving its ODI and T20 coverage to one side). It seems it is only prepared to commit to the two biggest tests each year, which fall over the Christmas/New Year holiday period.
Lets hope the new competition between the FRN and the ABC grows the reach of Australia’s national game even further.
All that Cricket Australia needs to do now is find a broadcaster for the BUPA Sheffield Shield. This author suggests that with the increased revenue Cricket Australia has received thanks to new broadcast deals with Nine and Ten (plus revenue from its international partners such as Star Sports (India) and Sky Sports (UK)) and if Cricket Australia cannot find a broadcaster for the Sheffield Shield final, it should undertake its own full-scale broadcast using CATV as the broadcast vehicle. Cricket Australia currently has live streams of BUPA Sheffield Shield matches but this is a one camera, no commentary operation.
With its newfound revenue, it should invest in a broadcast quality product to further enhance the profile of Australia’s first class cricket competition, to ensure that long-form cricket (which is the pinnacle of the sport) is not lost to the shorter formats of the game.
The First Ashes Test begins in Brisbane on 21 November.