Australia’s tilt at a first men’s Twenty20 World Cup title on Monday morning is locked behind a paywall, and next year’s tournament on home soil may not be seen by a free-to-air television audience either.
Aaron Finch’s men will fight it out against New Zealand in the T20 World Cup final, but unlike the team’s last appearance in a cup decider in the 2015 50-over event, fans won’t be able to see it on free-to-air TV even if they get up at 1am to watch the game from Dubai.
Fans won’t be able to watch the Australian T20 team on free-to-air television.Credit:Getty
That’s because under Australia’s anti-siphoning legislation there is no obligation for fans to be able to glimpse it for free. But it’s also because no television networks bid for the broadcast rights. Fans will be more frustrated if they have to pay to watch Australia play at the T20 World Cup next year, when the tournament is held on home soil and supposedly under the protection of a list that also features Ashes series and all home games.
Nine’s former CEO Hugh Marks said last August its deal to televise cricket’s Twenty20 World Cup in Australia was no longer valid because of the postponement of the tournament by two years. This means that, currently, there is no FTA broadcast partner for the World Cup in Australia and there may not be if the television networks decide not to bid for it.
Nine, which owns this masthead, was the FTA broadcaster of the 16-nation men’s event, which was originally meant to run in 2020. Mr Marks said last year that television rights cannot be kicked down the road, but indicated he was open to bidding again for the T20 World Cup in 2022. Mr Marks resigned last November and was replaced by CEO Mike Sneesby.
The rights to broadcast the T20 World Cup are sold by the game’s governing body, the International Cricket Council. Foxtel sub-licensed the matches to free-to-air. Industry sources, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, said Foxtel is trying to strike a deal with Nine, but there is no guarantee it will be secured as the latter wants to pay less on its contract given the delay of the tournament. Nine and Foxtel declined to comment on the record, but Foxtel sources say Nine is contracted to broadcast the T20s next year. The two are in negotiations and a contract for the free-to-air rights could still be forthcoming.
Marcus Stoinis bats during Australia’s semi-final victory.Credit:AP
While fans can subscribe to Kayo Sports on a 14-day free trial to watch Monday morning’s final, the absence of it on free-to-air television networks raises questions about anti-siphoning rules.
Under the rules, free-to-air television networks are given “first dibs” on any T20 cricket match that involves a senior Australian representative team and is played in Australia. It also gives free-to-air networks the option to broadcast any ICC World Twenty20 tournament that involves the senior Australian representative team and is played in Australia and New Zealand.
Communications Minister Paul Fletcher extended these rules in March, which frustrated television networks as well as pay TV and streaming company Foxtel. A spokesman for Mr Fletcher declined to comment on the absence of coverage of the national team on free-to-air television this year or next year.
Almost everyone in the media industry wants the rules amended, but there are significant disagreements over how. They were introduced in 1992 at the dawn of the pay TV era, and were designed to keep major sporting and cultural events free for the public. The laws achieved this by giving the three commercial FTA networks – Nine, Seven and Ten – the opportunity to bid for rights to certain events such as the Olympics, major domestic football competitions, and cricket internationals, before Foxtel. Foxtel has long campaigned for the rules to be abolished.
The list is not a guarantee that games will emerge from behind a paywall. In 2018, Foxtel gained exclusive rights to air non-World Cup one-day and T20 games played by the Australian men’s team as part of a $1.18 billion deal shared with Seven. The same is true of other sports – the list states that every AFL minor-round game should be on free-to-air, something that has not been the case for two decades.
Shadow communications spokesperson Michelle Rowland said the lack of FTA coverage of this year’s final, and uncertainty about 2022, was a sign that Mr Fletcher had dropped the ball.
“The Morrison-Joyce government has taken their eye off the ball when it comes to ensuring sporting events of national significance remain accessible to all Australians on free-to-air TV,” Ms Rowland said. “When the anti-siphoning list came up for expiry earlier this year, Minister Fletcher didn’t conduct a comprehensive review or public consultation process, he just lazily rolled it over.
Home heroes: Michael Clarke holds up the 2015 trophy after Australia beat New Zealand in the 50-over World Cup final at the MCG.Credit:AP
“This is just another example of Scott Morrison being a fraud. He makes sure he gets his photo taken at [Cronulla] Sharks games and other sporting events, but doesn’t care if Australian sports fans can actually watch their national cricket side play in a grand final. If he really cared, he’d have conducted a proper and timely review of the anti-siphoning list to ensure it remains fit for purpose.”
It isn’t as if Australians won’t be watching the T20 World Cup. Despite the time difference, this year’s T20 World Cup match between Australia and South Africa had 373,000 subscriber television viewers. The match between Australia and the West Indies had 310,000 subscription television viewers across Foxtel and Kayo Sports.
The first session of the 2015 Cricket one-day World Cup final between Australia and New Zealand attracted 1.9 million metropolitan viewers on Nine, while the second session had 2.2 million metro viewers. That year’s AFL grand final pulled in 2.6 million by comparison.
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