Channel 7 goes to war with Indian cricket
Channel 7 on Monday night launched Federal Court proceedings against Cricket Australia in a move which has cast a dark cloud over its future involvement in the sport.
The Daily Telegraph understands the network is seeking to be shown confidential documents and emails relating to Cricket Australia's dealings with India's cricket body the BCCI, and has initiated "pre-discovery" proceedings in the Federal Court.
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From there, Seven hopes to prove it was the power wielded by India's BCCI which manipulated key changes to the summer schedule, rather than reasons directly caused by the pandemic, and will allege a breach of contract has occurred.
Cricket Australia, as all the way throughout the saga, remains very confident in its own legal position and has pledged to deliver a full and compelling summer, which has already been marked by record WBBL and ODI ratings.
Channel 7's move to start proceedings under order 15A in the Federal Court is a first step, but could, if successful, lead to the seeking of damages or result in the termination of Seven's $450 million deal.
It is completely separate to the process already under way in an independent tribunal to have an expert assess the value of the broadcast rights based on the changes to the schedule.
It's based on what Channel 7 claims are "quality provisions" under its contract with Cricket Australia which it says includes clauses which dictate that Cricket Australia must organise matches to a world benchmark, and of no less a quality to the previous year.
Cricket Australia's original schedule for the summer had slated the season would launch with Tests against Afghanistan and India, which are broadcast on Seven and Fox Sports.
But a change was made which flipped the formats around to instead kick off with the white-ball series against India, which is exclusively shown by Fox.
Channel 7 claims this change was driven by the BCCI, and has hurt Seven's product because it has had to wait until December 17 to launch a major summer against drawcards India and means there will be no international build-up for the BBL before it kicks off on December 10.
Fox Sports has recorded enormous numbers in the opening two ODI matches - 544,000 average viewers for Sunday's second game at the SCG smashed records as the highest-rating ODI on subscription TV, eclipsing the 2015 World Cup final.
It's the third-ranking sports program ever on subscription TV, behind the 2011 Rugby World Cup semi-final and final.
Channel 7 will argue CA has shown preferential treatment to Fox Sports as a partner, by agreeing to switch the schedule and allow Fox an exclusive platform to launch the summer.
There have been eyebrows raised at CA that Seven chose not to broadcast the WBBL final on its main channel.
Fox Sports issued a statement on Monday praising CA for its schedule.
"Beginning the summer with the white ball has proven to be a hugely successful formula for Cricket Australia," Fox's executive director Steve Crawley said.
"On Wednesday we're off to Canberra for the final men's ODI then three T20s, all exclusive to Fox Cricket leading into the first Test. It's a ripper schedule and already the fans are loving it."
In regards to the separate independent tribunal proceedings, Channel 7 expects an expert to be appointed imminently and that determination would be made well before the case in the Federal Court is heard.