The
Nine Network is in the process of unloading millions of dollars of sporting
rights to the Pay TV channel Fox Sports, half-owned by Nine’s parent, PBL,
and News Ltd. The
review has already been revealed, but Nine is now in
active negotiations with Fox Sports and Foxtel about a
variety of deals, some of which will potentially breach the anti-siphoning rules
of the Federal Government, which is in the process of being redrawn as part of the Federal Government’s new
media rules.

Minister
Coonan said in March: “While I consider the
rationale for the list remains, I am of the view that there is scope for further
scrutiny of the anti-siphoning list and the number of events on
it. There are currently a number of events on
the list that are protected in their entirety despite not all the events in the
competition being broadcast. This is particularly the case with tournaments
which comprise multiple rounds such as tennis and golf.”

The AFL contacted Foxtel this week about a
deal covering the three International Rules games between Australia and Ireland in Ireland in
October.

Nine owns the rights but the AFL believes the network
won’t be interested in carrying live coverage of these games (which will be
overnight, given the time difference with Ireland) as its AFL contract
effectively finishes with the last home and away game in
August and wants to secure a deal with Foxtel (through
Fox Sports) as quickly as possible to guarantee coverage.

And, I
am told that yesterday Nine contacted a senior Foxtel
executive to discuss the likelihood of doing a deal to replay the weekly AFL and
NRL Footy Shows on Fox Sports after they have been to air on Thursday
nights. Fox
Sports has already taken over (bought!) the rights to the domestic one
day cricket competition next summer, along with rights to the Pura Cup final and some Twenty20 matches.

This,
coming less than three weeks after the new multi-year contract between Nine and
Cricket Australia started on April
1, will save Nine millions of dollars a year and is a direct result of moves by new
CEO Eddie McGuire to reduce the cost base and now
Nine is looking at all its sporting deals, excluding
the NRL (which will be subject to a separate cost cutting exercise ahead of its
start next year).

The
US Masters is certain to end
up with Fox Sports after attracting just 116,000 for the last round coverage this month and much of Wimbledon (if not all) and
the US Open tennis will also end up on Foxtel one way
or another. Talks
are looking at a split based on the US model of sharing rights between
the ABC Network and its cable associate, ESPN, whereby ESPN carries all the early
rounds while ABC carries the semi finals and finals of
various events.

Peter Fray

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