Cricket and Tennis pull big TV audiences – advertisers are smiling

The big spend on TV sports rights is proving to be a bonanza this summer. The Ashes and a big Australia win, Big Bash Cricket and the tennis match in which Lleyton Hewitt defeated Roger Federer pulled more than 5 million free-to-air television viewers. At its peak, more than 2.97 million viewers tuned in to Channel Nine’s coverage of the Ashes – the average national audience was 2.63 million. The Hewitt-Federer match viewing peaked at 1.56 million, with an average of 1.12 million. The T20 Big Bash cricket pulled in around 1 million viewers.

For the Australian Tennis Open finals Seven's coverage of the Men's Final peaked at 3.17 million viewers and averaged 2.42 million – up 8% on the Men's Final of 2009 Open in 2009. Prior to the finals, the registered the highest free-to-air audience across five cities at 1.06 million but this was still lower than all of the top five sessions of the one-day cricket series average between Australia and England. Looking internationally, Li Na of China, an interesting  'product' of China's state sports system and now worth some $40 million, pulled a China audience of some 70 million in her win of the Women’s Final. Andy Murray's defeat by Federer was watched by 5 million on BBC1. Major sponsors Kia, ANZ Bank and Jacobs Creek, the latter two featuring large chinese language signage, have extended their sponsorship for several years.

The Tennis cost Channel 7 $40 million while Ten paid $20 million for the Big Bash Cricket.

We’ve talked before about the difficult position of Channel 10, being left 3rd in the stakes behind its competitors and while Ten has improved its position, time for dancing is yet to come. Data relating to free-to-air TV advertising in 2013 shows that the Channel 7 network captured  40.5% of advertising share, Channel  Nine  37.8% and Channel 10 took 21.7%. Latest data for the last 6 months of 2013 indicate that Channel Nine's share moved ahead of Seven.

The prize for the TV channels is some $2.8 billion of advertising across the sports. Channel Nine’s capture of the TV cricket rights, albeit at $450 million over 5 years, Channel Ten with the T20 in a $100 million 5 year deal will have generated smiles. While Nine will further benefit from the one-day and Twenty20 series, Ten will play out the T20 so that it runs neatly into the February broadcast of the Sochi Winter Olympics – a good run for the troubled network.

Ten aims to capture more of the advertising pie through its broadcast of F1 races and through a recent deal the V8 Supercars series, which it will share with Foxtel and Fox Sports. That overall deal set a record for V8 broadcast rights, at $241 million for 6 years, with Ten chipping in about 25%. The news of Caledonia Investment's acquisition of shares in Ten is a boost to its position.

Of course, the recent period of top sports offered little programming competition – most other content was rubbish.

Eric Winton

Director, New Millennium Business

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