Nine secures Australian Open from 2020

Nine confirms 5 year Tennis Aus deal. Seven says "deal has to make commercial sense."

Nine has announced it has secured the rights to the Australian Open from 2020-2024.

The $300 million, five-year deal covers exclusive rights to all premium tennis played in Australia across broadcast, streaming, mobile, digital and social platform, including the Hopman Cup in Perth and the Brisbane, Sydney and Hobart Internationals.

The deal breaks Seven’s 40 year grip on the prized event, strategically placed ahead of the television ratings year. Seven’s exclusive negotiation period ended in mid-March. Nine’s deal with Tennis Australia was forged in a matter of weeks through Hugh Marks Nine CEO, Tom Malone Director of Sport, Alexi Baker Director of Strategy and Corporate Development, Rachel Launders General Counsel, and Sam Brennan Director of Sales, Melbourne.

“It’s no secret that Tennis as a sport has a beautiful balance of female and male participation and viewership. It’s (part) of the attractiveness of Tennis for us,” Marks said today.

“That promotional platform at the top of the year leading into the new schedule is one of the attractions of the sport but it is much broader than that. It’s the demographics of the sport itself. Over time Nine has a business has probably been very male and over the last decade it’s changed to be much broader in terms of male, and probably more female now in a lot of our programming. a sport that fits that demographic certainly is great for us.

Hugh Marks, CEO of Nine, said: “We are thrilled to have secured the rights to premium Australian tennis, particularly the Australian Open. The timing of tennis and the audience demographics it delivers are a perfect fit for Nine and its advertisers.

“We share Tennis Australia’s passion to grow its events, particularly the Australian Open, and expand its broadcast proposition in this country. To say we are excited to be part of that future is an understatement.”

“This is a landmark deal for Tennis Australia and we are very excited to partner with the Nine Network for the next five years,” Tennis Australia CEO Craig Tiley said.

“Four years ago we brought the host broadcast for the Australian Open and all our events in-house and this success has allowed us to unlock even more value in our domestic media rights.

“Our objective going into this process was a growth plan for exposure across the key planks of both tennis and non-tennis content, and the Nine offer best met these requirements. Nine’s commitment to additional tennis programing year-round was also aligned to our strategy.

“There are components within this new agreement which we believe will help us further grow our events and the sport of tennis.”

Tom Malone, Nine’s Director of Sport, said: “We are delighted that Wide World of Sports will become the new home of tennis in Australia. The Australian Open is an incredible tournament and event which will complement our existing rights across NRL, State of Origin, Netball and The Masters, as well as providing benefits to our news, entertainment and lifestyle pillars.

“Critical to this deal is the exclusive acquisition of all rights, which means we are unrestricted in our ability to serve tennis to audiences across the country anytime, anywhere, on the platform of their choosing.”

The Tennis Australia deal will also bring attention to events built around tennis, food, kids and music, with Nine brands The Voice and Family Food Fight expected to align around events. Nine has not ruled out deals with other industry stakeholders for other distribution.

Nine is currently in negotiations with Cricket Australia for broadcasting rights and it is yet to be determined how the new Tennis deal will affect deep pockets and summer scheduling.

Director of Sport Tom Malone sent a note to staff to advise, “It does not mean we won’t continue to pursue Cricket. We are still in a good position on Cricket, and we still have a desire to secure rights to Cricket at the right price and terms. As Hugh has said all along, we won’t be paying more money for sports rights, but we can afford to pay money for sports rights if it’s on terms which enable us to distribute and commercialise the content across all platforms.”

A Seven West Media spokesperson said, “We have an incredibly long and proud history with Australian tennis. We have delivered so many milestones to grow the game.

“Seven was the first to deliver the game on multi-channels, the first to live stream and the first to deliver every single match across the screens of Seven to every Australian, along with consistently innovating the broadcast on the way.

“Our strategy of delivering value for our shareholders and engagement for our clients remains firm. We build brands and we create success for our partners, and will continue to do so.

“But, we have been consistent and steady in what we have said about the economics of sports rights – the deal has to make commercial sense or we will step away.

“We wish Nine and everyone at Tennis Australia good luck.”

This post updates.

37 Responses

  1. Absolutely disastrous… we all grew up with 7’s summer of tennis, it just won’t be the same with Karl, Eddie & co. For those complaining about the current relentless advertising, how do you think 9 is going to cover the massive cost of securing rights? “Married” is about to become your worst nightmare!

  2. I just can’t see the ‘Summer of Tennis’ anywhere other than 7! Good Luck To 9 though. If 7 did get the Cricket, would be nice to see Mel McLaughlin in there somewhere as thats where she shines.

  3. Is it at all possible that Seven’s recent cost cutting is part of a strategy to make a serious play for the cricket rights? If so, this tennis non-renewal would be a big chunk of cash and airtime freed up to go for it.

    To me, Seven/Ten/Fox seems the likeliest arrangement now for cricket. For all of those saying Nine will be a breath of fresh air with tennis, you can make the same argument with cricket – we saw what happened with the BBL commentary on Ten, why couldn’t Seven bring something different to Test cricket etc.?

  4. I guess nine does not want the cricket any more .the tennis rates heaps better .just how does nine afford it were they not going bust at one stage .revenues are so down for all networks .

  5. Nine seemed to have a bit of grabbing sport broadcast rights from Seven after the sports had been covered by Seven for a long period. In 2000 Nine secured the AFL rights for 2002-2006 as part of consortium with Ten and Foxtel (Seven had telecast VFL/AFL since 1957). In 2009 Nine took the Australian Masters golf from Seven just as Tiger Woods was invited to play in the tournament, Seven having shown the Masters for more than 20 years. And now the Tennis Australia broadcast rights. In comparison Seven was not able to outbid Nine for sports which had been on the latter network for many years e.g. rugby league.

  6. Please don’t say channel 7 are going the same way as 9 and 10 where they have to get the US to bail them out and I presume most of the profits from the latter two channels go out of Australia. Seven have sold off their UK TV channel and are selling or have sold Yahoo and now letting the tennis go and have cut TV programmes which they say were too expensive to produce, hope this is not the case as we need to keep at least one FTA channel an Australian channel. I suppose time will tell.

  7. As I said on the Rumour post, this can only be a good thing.
    The coverage in recent years has been stale and lacklustre. Needs a total reboot from the bottom up. Getting back to grassroots should be the number one priority.

  8. I’ve heard that it wasn’t as profitable as Seven would have liked. Audience numbers were OK, not great, and with the amount of sport already in their schedule, maybe it was time to let one go. Maybe now they will try to pinch the Big Bash from Ten.

    1. What do you mean? This years ratings for Seven were some of the best in years and last year’s final the biggest ratings in 10 years, take a look at the demographics (albeit not as strong as BBL cricket on Ten, but total people beat BBL on most heads-to-heads this year, Seven also won every night the last two weeks of January).

      So I find it hard to believe it wasn’t as “profitable” as they’d have liked. But you may be correct, I’m not saying you’re not.

    2. I have heard the opposite, that the tennis is very profitable because of the wide and unique demographic it attracts. But the profitability of the event itself is only part of its value. It is the launch pad it provides for the first quarter shows that in invaluable. If the reported price tag is true then I think 9 have a very reasonable deal relative to the type of money thrown around for other sports.

      1. Exactly, for sure. Tennis demo appeal is huge, especially the reach, many flicking through multiple channels / feeds / matches, for minutes at a time.

        Cricket, especially test, is heavily male driven.

  9. Hooray! It will be so pleasing not to have MKR thrust at us, at every given moment. One can only hope Jim Courier doesn’t come across to 9. His incessant talking during matches has me reaching for the mute button. Give me Todd Woodbridge any day.

    1. I’d prefer Jim Courier any day of the week. Unfortunately Todd is chummy with everyone at Tennis Australia so we will likely have to put up with him for another five years.

  10. Holy moly. But good on Nine, Seven didn’t lock-it in hard, who knows, maybe they’ve secretly been after cricket (though a 40 year mantle isn’t something you necessarily want to lose) while Nine did come up with a plan, went hard and won.

    Media and sport speculation will be in overdrive in coming weeks. And now Seven have to break the news to their sport staff (albeit TA produced a lot of the coverage). I hope Seven will do something special next year, go out with a boom?

    1. Devastated, but they had it coming

      For all accounts there was dissatisfaction with a paid mobile app, scheduling of the same matches on main HD and secondary SD channels, excessive cross promotion and embarrassing after match interviews – its time for someone new to see what they can do with it

      Now, I am not suggesting Ch 9 will be any better, but they are coming from a fairly low point

  11. Great news, finally I won’t have to hear “After the Tennis” in regard to new shows coming for the two months leading into the rating season, as I so very rarely watch Nine, especially during summer. I do wonder how they will fit this an cricket into the schedule.

    1. Just on the matter of cricket rights – Nine and TEN submitted a joint bid which was rejected. Cricket Australia offered around a dozen packages on which to bid. And if CA don’t think that the value of their rights has just fallen, they are fooling themselves.

      As for Seven, surely it’s no secret they are on a cost-cutting drive ($125m worth of cuts)? They won’t be spending big on sports rights anytime soon.

    2. From little things, big things grow.

      The flow on effects from this ball tampering is going to be huge. 9 may well still bid for the cricket, but I suspect that it will be a much lower price than what Cricket Australia wanted. If you thought the tennis commentary team at 7 will sweating the small stuff, imagine how that bloated lot at 9 cricket commentary team must be feeling at this moment – pay cuts at best, out of a job at worst. Even the good folks at Cricket Australia will be changing their underpants at this stage.

      1. Do you really think the 9 cricket commentary team are living on the poverty line? I’m sure being out of a job wouldn’t be the end of the world.

        Then again if 7 get the cricket rights they will 100% just re-sign everyone… it’s what 7 do… they just copy everything anyone else does.

  12. Wow – a new era. I am surprised Seven didn’t go hard in securing this deal. Or maybe they did but not enough money to win over Nine? It looks like Nine is gradually snatching the No. 1 back from Seven (with the surge of MAFS and decline of MKR).

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