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Report: Australian Open set to stay on Nine as Tennis Australia eyes AUS$100m a year deal

Commercial network recently submitted offer worth AUS$85m in cash and contra.

26 October 2022 Josh Sim

Getty Images

  • Seven prevented from bidding due to Nine’s exclusivity period with Tennis Australia
  • National tennis body looking to secure AUS$40m a year increase for rights

Tennis Australia is in advanced discussions about renewing its domestic broadcast rights agreement with commercial network Nine, according to the Sydney Morning Herald (SMH).

The Australian newspaper reports that Nine offered about AUS$85 million (US$54.9 million) per annum to renew a broadcast contract that covers the Australian Open, a number of smaller events in the buildup to the Grand Slam tournament, as well as all Davis Cup and Billie Jean Cup matches on home soil.

The reported sum, offered several weeks ago, could even balloon further, with Tennis Australia’s chief executive Craig Tiley said to be seeking a deal worth an average AUS$100 million (US$64.6 million) per year in cash and contra.

Should Nine agree to Tennis Australia’s demands, the proposed five-year extended arrangement would represent an increase of about AUS$40 million (US$25.9 million) on the current deal. The report describes the rights value increase as ‘unsurprising’, given the recent growth of fees with deals such as the Australian Football League’s (AFL) record AUS$4.5 billion (US$3.05 billion) domestic broadcast partnership renewal.

Neither Nine and Tennis Australia have commented on the rights negotiations currently taking place, but an extension would appear to suit both parties.

Last year’s Australian Open posted strong domestic audience numbers as home favourite Ashleigh Barty won the women’s title, with audiences for the final peaking at 4.26 million viewers.

Nine’s commercial broadcast rival Seven Network is also keen to make a new bid for the tennis rights, which it had previously held for 40 years. However, the network will be unable to enter any talks until Nine’s exclusive negotiating period with Tennis Australia expires.

Reacting to the news of Nine’s advanced talks with the tennis federation, Seven West Media chief executive James Warburton told TV Tonight: “It’s up to [Tennis Australia] and Nine to work out. I don’t know what Nine have got, whether it’s a six month or a three month first (obligation) but they’re obviously in that scenario.

“I think Nine will announce that they’ve paid [AUS$100 million]. If they pay AUS$100 million for the tennis, good on them.”

In 2018, Nine paid about AUS$300 million (US$230 million) in total for the rights, which include both free-to-air (FTA) TV and digital rights from 2020 until 2024.

Nine would also eventually agree a deal for the 2019 Australian Open rights for AUS$48.5 million (US$31.4 million), bringing forward the rights transition from rival free-to-air (FTA) broadcaster Seven a year early. Nine has since inked a three-year deal for the US Open tournament rights that kicked in this year, which makes it the home for all four of tennis’ Grand Slams in Australia.

The SMH says that the new Tennis Australia rights deal could be finalised before November, but note that the discussions also have coincided with separate talks over Cricket Australia’s next domestic cricket rights deal.

It was recently reported that both Paramount and Nine are pushing hard for the cricket rights, which include Test cricket and Australia’s Big Bash League (BBL). Cricket Australia is said to be keen to secure a new agreement before the end of the year.

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