Cricket Australia offers Seven discount but deal a long way off
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Cricket Australia offers Seven discount but deal a long way off

Cricket Australia has indicated a willingness to give ground in the game's broadcast war with Seven West Media, offering to charge less money for the summer.

However, a peace deal with the game's free-to-air television partner remains a distant prospect, with Seven knocking back an initial offer from the game's governing body ahead of a meeting on Friday between managing director James Warburton and CA's interim chief, Nick Hockley.

Cricket Australia and Seven have been in dispute about the broadcast rights to the game.

Cricket Australia and Seven have been in dispute about the broadcast rights to the game.

Seven's attempts to have a major slice taken out of its $75 million fee this summer have also been rejected to date by CA, which has maintained since Warburton began taking aim at the organisation in August that it would deliver a full season and fulfil its end of the contract.

The offer from CA is the first sign it is prepared to bend on the price its broadcasters are being billed, although the parties remain a long way apart.

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Sources at Seven would not disclose the new amount CA was proposing but have dismissed it outright, saying it was far more than the network considered reasonable.

Seven last week refused to pay a $25m instalment in full while Foxtel also stopped short of transferring all of its $33m September payment.

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Seven will begin televising the international summer this weekend when Meg Lanning's Australian team starts a limited-overs campaign against New Zealand in Brisbane but its future broadcasting of the game remains in doubt after it threatened to tear up its $450 million deal.

Lumped with nearly $400m in debt, Seven is desperate to slash costs on cricket and has appointed an arbitration expert as it seeks to have the rights it signed up to in 2018 independently valued.

The network was able to reduce its rights spending on the AFL by $87m over the remaining three seasons of its deal with the football code and in its annual report last month outlined the renegotiation of sports rights as a key objective.

While Seven has not outlined exactly how much it wants shaved off the cricket contract, which has four years to run, it has emerged that Warburton wrote to then CA chief Kevin Roberts in March seeking a 40 per cent cut to its Big Bash League rights fee.

With the BBL amounting to 57 per cent of the network's rights contract, that would equate to a discount of $17m a season.

However, Seven sources suggest that figure is not representative of the size of the markdown it is now chasing as it was based largely on falling BBL ratings rather than the additional impact of CA's rescheduling on the approaching season.

In the letter to Roberts, Warburton said Seven was willing to include a "performance uplift" in the money it paid for the Big Bash if ratings improved.

Seven has since raised concerns about a dilution of talent from the BBL because of the formation of international player hubs this summer, the impact of a travelling Big Bash bubble on crowds and re-scheduled dates for the four-match Test series between Australia and India.

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They are yet to be announced as CA awaits state government approval to have India quarantine in Queensland, where Virat Kohli's team will play three one-day internationals and three Twenty20 internationals against Australia before the start of the Test series.

While Seven's Test ratings were up 13 per cent last year, executives aren't pleased at the prospect of its first men's international offering not being until December 17, when the first Australia-India Test is proposed to be staged in Adelaide. They are also frustrated at the proposed positioning of the fourth Test in Brisbane in mid-January, believing the dates could impact ratings as many potential viewers will have returned to work.

Broadcasters are also yet to be told if CA will postpone the one-off Test between Australia and Afghanistan that was to precede the India series, as many expect.

There has been an announcement, at least, on the Sheffield Shield, with CA confirming the first four rounds would be played in Adelaide from October 10.

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