Channel Nine commentators (from left) Mark Nicholas, Glenn McGrath, Shane Warne, Michael Slater and Mark Taylor.
CHANNEL Nine managing director Jeff Browne says his network remains hopeful of retaining the Australian rights to international cricket, despite his debt-laden network edging towards the point of collapse.
Nine's seven-year contract with Cricket Australia to broadcast Tests, one-dayers and Twenty20 matches, worth about $300 million, expires after this summer.
Fox Sports' hold on the Big Bash League is also up for renewal.
As revealed in The Age in August, Channel Seven says it is contemplating bidding for at least a slice of the rights when negotiations intensify next month.
Nine and Fox recently renewed the rights to the NRL for $1.025 billion, but Nine Entertainment is sinking under a $3.2 billion debt pile, with industry observers unsure if it will have enough money to bid for the cricket rights it has held since the end of World Series Cricket in 1979.
The network's lenders and owners yesterday delivered a series of legal letters to each other in a bid to reopen negotiations, which have stalled.
Nine's chief executive, David Gyngell, reportedly told lenders the network would have to consider selling the company or closing its doors if negotiations did not resume.
CA is keeping abreast of events and is believed to be confident that Nine will have the money required to bid for the rights.
Browne said the network's financial troubles would have ''no impact'' on the negotiations. ''We are hopeful of retaining our current suite of rights,'' he said.
It is understood the NRL took Nine's financial situation into consideration and asked for an upfront, first-year payment.
Seven could conceivably bid for a slice of the action, such as the one-day series. It is also interested in the concept of night Tests.
Channel Ten, desperate for a slice of high-profile sport after opting not to retain the AFL rights last year, is also interested in Twenty20.
Nine has also expressed interest in broadcasting one BBL match per week in conjunction with Fox Sports.
Nine is keen to refresh its commentary team this summer, with current players to be used more often.
The contracts of several of its callers expire after this summer, including that of Richie Benaud, who turns 82 on Saturday.
Former captain Ricky Ponting will be asked to join Nine's team when he retires.