Unplugged: Seven pulling the pin on cricket coverage
Channel Seven have commenced the process to terminate its contract with Cricket Australia.
In a dramatic escalation of the TV rights drama, News Corp understands that the network sent a legal letter to CA bosses earlier this week informing them that they would begin the process to cancel the remainder of their $450 million deal, citing a belief that Cricket Australia is in breach of their contract.
Cricket Australia say the letter sent to them was not a termination letter.
Industry sources have told News Corp that Cricket Australia has 14 days to respond, before the dramatic escalation would then go into a lengthy mediation and arbitration process.
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Seven and CA executives have been in talks since last Friday but the issue now appears headed for an ugly legal battle.
If Seven was ultimately successful in its legal challenge, the game could be left without a free-to-air broadcast partner on the eve of the summer.
CA has maintained all along it's confident in its legal position that as long as it provides a full schedule, it will be upholding its end of the bargain in the mega TV rights deal.
At the crux of Seven's complaint is a belief that the value of this year's Big Bash League product will be diminished due to player unavailability and reduced crowds, a concern also held by the game's other broadcast partner, Fox Sports.
Cricket Australia is adamant it will produce a high quality BBL despite the complications of COVID-19 and executive Anthony Everard on Thursday denied that the T20 competition was all about star players.
"The BBL is unique. In that the success of the league and the teams is not reliant on any one particular group of players," Everard said.
"Of course we would love to have the highest profile, best players in the world, but we haven't had them since day one. The success has been based on the diversity of the squad and the mix of a team squad.
"We only need to look over to the UK now and the likes of Josh Phillipe and Riley Meredith in the Australian squad who wouldn't be there if it wasn't for their performances in the Big Bash last summer."
Cricket Australia sources believe that Seven's pursuit to terminate their contract with cricket is due to the company's debt and share price position after signing an inflated deal it no longer likes.
Seven sources say their motivation is that they don't feel they will get value for the $75 million a year they're outlaying to broadcast cricket.
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They point to the fact CA commissioned its own review into the BBL after last season, and that those findings may struggle to be enacted this season due to the virus drama.
The season is only just around the corner and Cricket Australia is working around the clock to release a schedule in the coming days.
Seven are frustrated that they haven't been able to go to market and start selling advertising for the summer and Fox Sports are also after certainty.
Cricket is battling issues with Government border restrictions and has been hurt badly by the all-powerful BCCI, who has compromised the start of the Australian summer.
By playing an IPL in October-November it's directly affected Australia's ability to launch its own season.
Originally published as Unplugged: Seven pulling the pin on cricket coverage