Domain Tests v India

Seven, Fox detail summer plans

Australian cricket's new broadcasters reveal what fans can expect in 2018-19 and beyond

Dave Middleton

15 April 2018, 05:30 PM

The great Bill Lawry could be back on Australian airwaves this summer as cricket's new media partners have begun to elaborate on what fans can expect under a new era of cricket broadcasts.

Seven West Media and Fox Sports signed a $1.182 billion deal to jointly broadcast international and domestic cricket in Australia for the next six years. That ended a four-decade association between cricket and the Nine Network, while Network Ten had broadcast the Big Bash League for the past five years.

A new era could see fans "be your own director" with the ability to decide their own camera angles to watch with a suite of digital products set to complement the television broadcast, a concept known as 'second-screening'.

And familiar voices from Nine such as the legendary Lawry could be on the airwaves amid a fresh and diverse new look, with former captain Steve Smith also tipped to be involved in a yet-to-be-determined capacity, while Seven are reportedly keen to lure their own commentary doyen Dennis Cometti to join their coverage.

Seven will broadcast Australian Test cricket and 43 BBL games – including the finals series – as well as all Australian women's internationals and 23 WBBL matches from this summer.

Fox Sports will simulcast all that on its subscription service, with its own commentary team. It will also broadcast Australia's ODI and T20 international matches, an extra 16 BBL matches scattered throughout the regular season, as well as the Sheffield Shield final, select domestic one-day matches and some tour matches.

The Cricket Network – through cricket.com.au and the CA Live app – will provide broadcast quality live-streaming coverage of every Sheffield Shield match, and the remaining WBBL and JLT One-Day Cup matches not covered by Fox Sports.

Details of the digital options for broadcast matches haven't been made public, but live streaming will be available to fans through a digital partnership across Foxtel and Cricket Network platforms. 

Seven is likely to have separate commentary teams for Test cricket and the BBL, and will look to "freshen up" the broadcast of the five-day format.

"(Cricket commentary) is very subjective and people have their opinions," Seven West Media CEO Tim Worner told The Sunday Times.

"I happen to think that Ten did a good job of freshening the presentation of cricket with the Big Bash and I think it's probably time to do the same thing with Test cricket and that's what we're going to set about doing."

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Australian greats such as Ricky Ponting and Adam Gilchrist – who cemented their commentary credentials on Ten's BBL presentations – are in high demand, as is spin king Shane Warne who was part of Nine's commentary teams but has also worked with UK subscription service Sky.

Leading female commentators such as former Southern Stars players Mel Jones and Lisa Sthalekar have also been touted, as have highly-respected British commentators Alison Mitchell and Isa Guha.

Roz Kelly, the wife of South Africa quick Morne Morkel, previously worked on Ten's Big Bash coverage while former BBL host Mel McLaughlin could return to the T20 format through her current employers, Seven.

Foxtel CEO Patrick Delaney hinted the ever-popular Lawry was a target to return to the commentary box for the Boxing Day Test against India.

"We're not ruling out anyone," Delany told News Corp. "I've already had my three brothers on the phone about getting Bill on board. We've got grey hair all over the place. Why is 'diversity' just about women? It should be about all races and ages.

"I know the deft touch of Steve Crawley and his team and they will make sure we have great diversity."

Lawry himself declined to comment on as possible involvement.

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Cricket coverage's link with the past will continue with Fox Sports' head of television Steve Crawley joining the subscription broadcaster three years ago after a decade leading Nine's cricket coverage.

"We are going to be investing in new technologies that target a younger audience who wants to be more engaged in the game," Crawley told News Corp.

"They want to find stories for themselves outside of what we are delivering on normal TV. This audience wants to be more engaged.

"They are simply not content with watching the game on one screen any more.

"Our goal will be to deliver how they want it, where they want it and when they want it.

"You will be your own director. You'll be able to pick different camera angles.

"In the new age, TV audiences are under pressure and we have to be really futuristic. The world will change over the next six years."

The second-screen coverage could include things such as ball tracking, player heart rate monitors and distance trackers for players and shots, while the introduction of augmented reality components has been flagged.

"There has been a huge change in the technology that's available to us," Crawley said.

"We have already begun discussions with companies who we believe will help us take the game to an audience both young and old across all platforms. This is not just about television. This is about all screens.

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"It's important for us that technology is not the end game. It's simply a story-telling tool that helps us explain to our viewers what is it that makes these people out on the pitch the best in the world.

"We will work with Cricket Australia. They have a lot of good ideas and we have a great relationship."

Seven chief executive officer Tim Worner said he had already reached out to Cometti about a return to commentary duties for cricket.

The Perth-based 69-year-old is well known for his calls of Australian rules football but has covered a variety of sports over a decorated career. He hung up the microphone at the end of the 2016 AFL season but could be tempted back.

"I can certainly tell you that I have reached out to Dennis Cometti. I texted him, 'Are you bored yet?' I definitely intend to catch up with him in the very near future," Worner told The Sunday Times.

"Dennis is someone who I believe is a superb commentator and he actually started I think calling cricket. He's called a lot of cricket and he's exceptionally good at it.

"I can't be certain, but I'm definitely interested in having a chat with him."