Australia Re-Enters Broadcast Market After COVID Call Sinks Swimming’s Seven Deal

Cate Campbell abd Bronte Campbell Swimming World
TALENT POOL: Swimming's sister act Bronte and Cate Campbell - headline acts in a pool of stars. Photo: Delly Carr (Swimming Australia).

 Australia Re-Enters The Broadcast Market After COVID Call Sinks Swimming’s Seven Deal

Swimming Australia is exploring new media and broadcast options following today’s shock announcement that the Seven Network and Australia’s most successful Olympic sport had agreed to terminate their broadcast partnership – which had been signed until 2025.

The news from Swimming follows Channel 7s ongoing termination proceedings of its $450 million six-year deal with Cricket Australia.

It’s a sign of the times in Australian sport with the major football codes having battled all winter to honour their respective, disruptive COVID-19 fixtures, in order to keep their codes alive and to satisfy their nervous broadcast partners.

A joint statement between Swimming Australia and Channel 7 said that the termination was agreed because of:

“Swimming Australia’s inability to hold the Olympic and Paralympic Swimming Trials in 2020 due to the COVID- 19 pandemic as required under Seven’s media rights agreement.”

Really? Surely something very much out of Swimming Australia’s control with the Olympics postponed and Swimming Australia having no alternative but to postpone its own Trials, set down for Adelaide in June again this year. A real clause call with Swimming Australia boasting a treasure chest of Olympic podium hopefuls.

The Trials for 2021 are also set for Adelaide in June with many Australian swimmers awakening from their COVID lockdowns to start chasing  their Olympic dreams and in a real hurry – a golden opportunity awaits for a willing broadcast partner to jump on board for what could well be a magical ride.

Although both parties have acknowledge disappointment at the outcome, they have mutually agreed to terminate their arrangements and part ways, following Seven giving notice of termination.

For swimming, it may well be a good thing. Fresh start, for a fresh partner and a host of fresh young talent about to push their weight around against the sport’s established stars.

It also follows last year’s Fina World Championships in Gwangju when for the first time in recent memory there was no free-to-air broadcast of the Australian Swim Team at a world titles – with the sport’s world governing body Fina, holding firm on prohibitive rights fees.

ariarne-titmus-400-free-final-2019-world-championships_8

IN THE SPOTLIGHT: Podium pals after battle is done – Australia’s Ariarne Titmus and US  pair Katie Ledecky and Leah Smith after the Gwangju 400 – countdown to Tokyo will be primetime viewing. Photo Courtesy: Becca Wyant

It robbed the Australian sporting public of witnessing one of 2019’s stand-out achievements when Brisbane teen Ariarne Titmus beat the world’s greatest female swimmer Katie Ledecky in a momentous 400m freestyle victory.

Setting the stage for what will be a classic Olympic showdown in Tokyo.

The Dolphins then proceeded to dominate the Gwangju relays – winning four “Olympic event relays” – including the coveted men’s and women’s 4x200m freestyle – the women in world record time.

Today’s news prompted Swimming Australia’s CEO Leigh Russell to declare the immediate exploration to ensure swimming remains in the Australian public domain in the countdown to Tokyo 2021.

We see the broadcast of swimming in Australia as crucial to our sport and the fabric of the Australian sporting landscape,” said Russell.

“And we will continue to explore options within the media and digital landscape for opportunities to share and showcase our amazing sport, in which literally millions of Australians are involved in.

LEIGH RUSSELL

LANES OF OPPORTUNITY: Swimming Australia CEO is in the Broadcast market place with a talented pool of stars on her books. Photo Courtesy: Leigh Russell Twitter.

While we are disappointed with the outcome, we acknowledge that these are unprecedented times for businesses all over the world, including our own, and understand Seven’s position.

I would like to take this opportunity to thank Seven for the generous contribution they have made to the sport of swimming over the years.

Through a strong working relationship with Seven, we have been able to bring swimming to Australian lounge rooms – not just in an Olympic and Paralympic year but every year in between and that has been vital to telling the story of our incredible athletes and coaches.

 

With 2021 Olympics and Paralympics around the corner, we are firmly focused on the future for our athletes, coaches and fans.”

Back in 2016 Swimming Australia president John Bertrand declared that the new innovative partnership with the Seven Network was a game changer.

“This deal is a game changer for the sport of swimming, both in terms of rich content to be broadcast to the nation as well as our ability to go to the sponsorship market with the Seven Network as our partner,” said Bertrand.

“Our athletes have pride, passion and commitment as they strive for success on the world stage.

“It gives me great pleasure to know that we can share these stories with the nation and share the journey of our Dolphins Team, across the Seven Network until 2025.”

Mack-Horton

OLYMPIC CHAMPION: Mack Horton celebrating Rio gold – Photo Courtesy: Swimming Australia

It is now a sport that is very much on the open market for a broadcast partner to snap up Australia’s leading Olympic sport with a group of existing stars led by Olympic champions Mack Horton and Kyle Chalmers and swimming’s super sisters Cate Campbell and Bronte Campbell and exciting new talent announced last week in the Flippers National Junior Squad and already unleashing their ability at the recent Queensland State Short Course Championships.

Swimming has always received strong support from its broadcast partners, dating back to the days on the National Broadcaster ABC with the late legend of Olympic sports commentary Norman May, 1956 Olympian Jon Donohoe and the late great father of coaching Forbes Carlile and with each of the commercial networks, Channel Nine, Channel Seven and Channel Ten all taking a slice of the action over the past 20 years.

Nine’s Wide World of Sport had a successful 10-year association with swimming from 1999 to 2009 during the sport’s last golden era when its TV ratings were on par with the State of Origin (rugby league) and Ray Warren became the voice of the sport.

Seven being the Olympic and Paralympic broadcaster ensured swimming was its flagship sport from 2016, a 10- year deal that has been sunk after just four years.

Lewis Martin, Managing Director Seven Melbourne and Network Head of Sport, said: “We have enjoyed our partnership with Swimming Australia since 2016 and have been proud to broadcast their events to Australians.

We thank Swimming Australia for the great relationship we have had with them and wish them nothing but the very best going forward.”

And it is sure to be a case of one door closes and another one opens for swimming in Australia…..Seven’s loss will certainly be someone else’s gain as the likes of Foxtel, Optus Sport and Amazon Prime start circling an exciting new talent pool.

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