That soft kiss of a gentle breeze wafting into your ear is a natural consequence of the sweet nothings being whispered by the executives at Seven and Foxtel, and their enablers in the federal government who just let Cricket Australia drop the nation’s summer sport behind a pay wall.
Seven and Foxtel’s joint billion-dollar deal for the broadcast rights to Test and limited overs cricket is about as clear a breach of the anti-siphoning legislation as you could hope for… if you had a lazy billion dollars lying around and you wanted to spend the next six years gouging millions of punters for all they were worth.
Don’t expect Communications Minister Mitch Fifield to back you up, though. The bloke who gave Foxtel $30 million of your money last year insists this year that it’s “for Cricket Australia to explain how the arrangements they have entered into are in the interests of cricket fans and participants”.
Thanks Mitch. You’re doing a helluva job.
Meanwhile, the chief executive pooh-bah at Seven, Tim Worner, thinks disgruntled punters are simply too stupid to know what’s good for them, which by happy coincidence perfectly matches what’s good for his network.
Complaints about cricket disappearing behind a paywall are just a "misunderstanding" says Tim. Sure if Foxtel had just bought the rights and paywalled them they’d have some ‘splaining to do. But having paid so much money for the shorter form matches Seven is simply “choosing to allow Foxtel to show them exclusively as part of the deal”.
Such generosity. It warms the cockles of me heart, it does Guvnor.
Why it’s like me running into you in a dark alley, and choosing not to mug you while me mate tunes you up with an axe handle.
I’m nice that way.
This was always coming, one day, of course. We started the journey here a long time ago, when Kerry Packer wondered why there were no adverts between overs during test matches, and more specifically why he wasn’t being paid for those adverts.
The rise of on-demand TV through streaming services such as Netflix and Stan, and more generally the annihilation of ad-supported media’s business model by Google and Facebook, made the question of grabbing up live sport all the more imperative. Increasingly, it’s all the networks have. Live sport and dating shows.
I don’t know that Cricket Australia has done itself any favours in the long term, though. After the disaster in South Africa they were probably desperate to get anything that looked like a half-way decent deal and they’ll be stoked with the billion plus they just trousered.
But they let Foxtel walk away with the streaming revenue (a potentially huge source of direct income), and they’ve denied millions of young players access to the game during those long, languid summer months.
It’s OK though. They can always play Xbox.
John Birmingham is a columnist and blogger for the Brisbane Times. He is also an award winning magazine writer and the author of Leviathan, the Unauthorised Biography of Sydney, which won the National Award for Non-Fiction. He amuses himself in his down time by writing novels which improve with altitude.
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