Domestic pact affirms CA moves on Twenty20

The $100 million deal to return domestic cricket to free-to-air television has been hailed as vindication of Cricket Australia’s contentious move to scrap its state-based Twenty20 competition.

In late 2010, CA enacted a multimillion-dollar plan to create eight city-based teams, which were formed almost two years ago. It ran the expanded Big Bash League competition at a significant loss for its first two seasons in the hope it would generate competition for incumbent broadcaster Fox Sports. That was proved correct, with Channel Ten snaring the rights for the next five years.

CA chief executive James Sutherland said the decision of CA’s board to expand the game’s newest format, ”a significant investment … without the [immediate financial] return”, was not taken lightly.

”We needed to prove the concept in a belief we could get a return in the long run … and I think today that decision has been vindicated,” Sutherland said.

”Along the way people have been a little bit cynical or sceptical about the decision … and about the cost of getting the competition up and running, but I think the fact that a free-to-air network has been prepared to buy the rights for a significant sum … is fantastic.”

Both Melbourne BBL teams relished the prospect of increased exposure. Renegades chief executive Stuart Coventry said that the ”timing is perfect … to go into the season knowing that we’ve got some prime-time coverage compared to other competitor codes is just great news”.

His Stars counterpart, Clint Cooper, said it ”increases the awareness and commercial value of properties associated with the teams”.

As well as game development, and with expansion beyond the current eight teams not on CA’s immediate agenda, the increased proceeds from the Twenty20 broadcast rights will be used to provide additional assistance to struggling teams. Asked about the merits of increasing equal dividends for all teams compared to targeted assistance, Sutherland said he would ”definitely look to some sort of equalisation model”.

”I think it’s harder and more challenging, particularly in the Melbourne and Sydney markets, where we have two teams, for them to be starting afresh and creating their own brands and identities and followings,” he said.

”The traditional cricket view has been one team, one town, one state. We really want to make sure we help these teams get established because, after all, these cities are the two biggest cities in Australia and it’s important from a market viewpoint that we can provide that extra content.”

The Ten deal did not include broadcast rights for the Ryobi Cup one-day competition, with its chief executive, Hamish McLennan, declaring that his network was ”comfortable and happy with the Big Bash League”.

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