NRL 2020: State of Origin TV rights play from Channel 7 after cricket threat

Channel 7 has reportedly turned its eye to State of Origin in the wake of the network’s bitter falling out with Cricket Australia.

In the most tumultuous year for sports broadcast rights in memory, TV revolutions are brewing on the back of discontent from free to air networks.

Seven is threatening to terminate its $450 million contract with Cricket Australia.

Channel 7 chief executive James Warburton last week delivered a scathing assessment of Cricket Australia’s management, calling it a “trainwreck” and the “most incompetent” administration he has ever worked with.

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CA is reportedly refusing to give broadcast partners a discount on its rights fees, despite the coronavirus looming large over the 2020-21 summer of cricket.

Seven currently pays approximately $82 million a year to CA for the broadcast rights as part of its six-year deal.

However, it emerged on Monday that Seven is considering a play to put that money towards snaring the free to air rights for State of Origin, beginning in 2023.

Brett Kimmorley, Renee Gartner, Jim Wilson, Laurie Daley and Dan Ginnane called the 2017 Rugby League World Cup. Photo Jeremy PiperSource:Supplied

Seven’s public attack on Cricket Australia comes just months after a public war between Channel 9 and the NRL over a similar reduction in broadcast rights costs.

The NRL announced in May it had reached an extended agreement with Foxtel to keep the game on the Pay TV subscriber through to the end of the 2027 season.

Nine was reportedly left seething by the NRL’s attempts to push on with the 2020 season after informing investors the company could have saved $130 million by cancelling the 2020 premiership.

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The war of words ultimately resulted in former NRL CEO Todd Greenberg being forced out.

As part of that agreement, Nine only agreed to continue through to the end of the original broadcast deal, which was signed through to the end of the 2022 season.

That agreement reportedly included Fox Sports having a $90 million nibble at Nine’s exclusivity for State of Origin — but Nine eventually signed a deal to keep the grand final and all three State of Origin matches exclusive to the network through to the end of 2022.

Now Seven is reportedly muscling in on Nine’s turf in a potential joint-bid with Foxtel for State of Origin from 2023-27.

The Australian first reported Seven is interested in State of Origin and could even make a play to take the NRL premiership out of Nine’s hands, beginning in 2023.

Winners, 2019.Source:Getty Images

The report identifies Seven and Foxtel have already held talks about the State of Origin plot and Seven has even requested for the NRL to delay broadcast negotiations until it will be in a better position in 2021.

Seven has previously flirted with the prospect of making a play for State of Origin and in 2017 secured the rights for the Rugby League World Cup in a gesture widely interpreted to be a declaration of its intent to beef-up its rugby league coverage.

Media analyst Steve Allen has told news.com.au Channel 7 would be attempting to signal to the NRL that it was a “viable alternative” to Nine which would ultimately ensure the NRL got the “best possible price”.

“Seven saying it is interested in parts of the NRL ensures the NRL has a bit of a lever – it keeps a bit of price tension in there,” he said.

“All networks play this game … it is escalating, but there is a new chief executive at Seven with a point to prove and they would be rallying the troops in the publicity stakes and putting the message out, and that is typical of good, robust competition in the marketplace.”

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