India skipper Virat Kohli’s decision to play only the limited-overs leg and the first Test on the upcoming tour of Australia has left broadcasters Channel 7 at a major disadvantage but has given major boost to rivals Fox Sports.
Channel 7, which is free-to-air, holds rights for the four-match Test series while Fox Sports, a pay channel, holds the rights to broadcast the two white-ball series (three T20Is and as many ODIs). Both channels will, however, be able to broadcast the first Test, a pink-ball affair to be played at the Adelaide Oval in which Kohli will take part.
The Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) had on Monday allowed Kohli paternity leave, giving him permission to return home after the first Test to be with wife Anushka Sharma who is due for delivery.
This will mean that while Fox Sports will get 14 days of cricket with Kohli (six white-ball series games, a warm-up and the day-night Test), Channel 7 will be able to broadcast only five days of Kohli during the Adelaide Test. They will have to broadcast the remaining 15 days of Test cricket sans the talismanic Indian batsman.
According to reports in the Australian media, both channels had built their promotion on Kohli who is one of the top selling sporting personalities in the world.
“Football superstars Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo and basketball icon LeBron James are the only international athletes on earth with a bigger marketing and social media footprint than ‘King Kohli’, and his ‘limited time only’ summer has now put a premium on every game he plays on Fox,” a report in The Australian newspaper said.
“Both networks have based their summer promotion almost entirely on Kohli, and while Channel 7 will now have to re-cut their advertising to reflect the fact he’s missing the last three Tests including Boxing Day, Fox Sports will double down on ramming home the fact they’re the home of a megastar with a social media reach of more than 100 million people.”
It should also be noted that Channel 7 has been involved in a dispute with Cricket Australia and had threatened to pull out of a $450 million deal.
The dispute emerged after it sought a cut in annual fees for this summer as the BCCI forced a change in their tour schedule, bringing the two white-ball series to the start of the season and Tests to the back-end with only one Test before Christmas and the final two Tests running through second and third week of January when the holiday season ends and many people are back at work.
They also sought a cut due to less crowds in international season during Covid-19 pandemic and availability of less international stars in the Big Bash League.
As per the original schedule, the T20Is were to take place in October, as a pre-cursor to T20 World Cup, and the Tests were to start on December 3. The ODI series was to happen around mid-January.
However, now the tour is scheduled to commence with the three ODIs at the Sydney Cricket Ground (November 27, 29) and Manuka Oval, Canberra (December 2). That will be followed by the three-match T20I series at Manuka Oval, Canberra (December 4) and the SCG (December 6, 8).
After that, Team India will then begin the title defence of the Border-Gavaskar Trophy with the pink-ball Test in Adelaide from December 17. It will be followed by Tests at the Melbourne Cricket Ground (December 26), the SCG (January 7) and the Gabba (January 15).