Gold Coast games a hit as Seven banks bargain

Channel Seven’s decision to fork out $40 million for exclusive broadcast rights to the Commonwealth Games could prove a masterstroke with the network attracting bumper television audiences over the first week of competition.

More than two million Australians watched the opening ceremony on April 4 with almost 1.3 million people respectively tuning in to see the programs directly before and after.

The viewership has since remained strong, with Seven’s latter-day broadcasts topping the free-to-air program ratings seven days in a row.

The surging audience has also impacted secondary channel Seven Two which has attracted in excess of 300,000 people a night while thousands more tuned in online.

The rights acquisition – purchased by Seven boss Kerry Stokes in 2014 – looks a bargain compared to the $30 million Ten paid for the Glasgow Commonwealth Games the same year.

Figures from that event were promising early – 1.8 million viewers the first night – but waned significantly after that to fall well short of the heights set by Seven on the Gold Coast.

A pattern mirrored four years earlier in Delhi when Ten and FOXTEL turned out similarly lacklustre numbers.

Seven’s remarkable ratings even stack up alongside those generated by the 2016 Rio Olympics which – in a package with Pyeongchang 2018 and Tokyo 2020 – cost the network $170 million.

The boost comes during a period of significant uncertainty for Australian sports broadcasters.

In light of the ball-tampering scandal that outraged Australia’s sporting public, Cricket Australia (CA) is already feeling the pinch as negotiations for the next television rights bundle reach boiling point.

CA is refusing to deal with incumbent broadcasters Nine and Ten which tabled a joint offer – reportedly worth $500 million over five years – that fell drastically short of the billion-dollar pay-day it wanted.

In a scathing email to CBS and Ten boss Armando Nuńez, famously understated CA chairman David Peever called the networks “bottom-feeders”, fuelling suspicion Seven might make a bid.

The offer was reportedly raised to $900 million earlier this week but CA never came back to the table, granting Seven and FOXTEL the rights to broadcast the cricket from the 2018-19 season.

But it’s not all sunshine for Channel Seven as the network lost its right to cover the Australian Open tennis for the first time since 1973 after Nine swooped in with a five-year deal worth $300 million.

Crocmedia founder and CEO Craig Hutchison says Tennis Australia has done remarkably well to secure the landmark transaction.

“What they pulled off – a $60 million a year rights deal – is a fantastic achievement,” Hutchison told The Sounding Board podcast.

“They’ve done a lot of things right, Tennis Australia, for a long period of time.

“But the broadcast piece was a genius deal.

“The long-term relationship with Channel Seven dates back to 1973.

“It’s not an insignificant decision to move away from a broadcaster that’s helped build and develop the sport.

“But they did. They were bold and nimble and they moved quick they and seized the day in the middle of the cricket deal.

“They had to get their deal done [or] they might’ve got lost in the bid-out.

“I think that they’ve done a sensational job given ostensibly the tournament runs for two of 52 (weeks).”