A repeat in boardrooms instead of on screens

Channel Nine's top rating drama from last year, Howzat! depicted Kerry Packer's audacious bid to take control of Australian cricket in the 1970s.

Channel Nine's top rating drama from last year, Howzat! depicted Kerry Packer's audacious bid to take control of Australian cricket in the 1970s.

It might be telling that 35 years later, cricket's relationship with the Nine Network looks likely to be broken in favour of the network now associated with James Packer - Ten.

The straggler among Australia's commercial television networks has lobbed a massive $500 million bid for the broadcast rights to all forms of the game while, as Fairfax Media revealed on Friday, Nine is entangled in legal action with Cricket Australia.

Nine - which has the right to match the offer of any other bidder as the incumbent broadcaster - has until early next month to decide whether it wants to match Ten's offer.

It is not known if Cricket Australia's legal action in the Victorian Supreme Court complicates matters.

"We have a 32-year relationship with Cricket Australia and I'm very confident that we will be able to resolve any issues between us sensibly and through direct discussion," said Nine's managing director, Jeff Browne, in a statement on Friday.

The court has set May 31 as the date to hear the matter, just six weeks before the first Ashes Test between Australia and England starts at Trent Bridge on July 10.

The legal file has been sealed by order of a Supreme Court judge because of the commercially sensitive material contained within.

It is understood the action is designed to clarify the status of cricket's Big Bash league and whether it is subject to Nine's last right of refusal given this popular form of the game did not exist at the time of Nine's deal.

Another issue is whether Nine is deemed to have matched Ten's offer if it does not agree to broadcast the domestic competition - something it has no interest in.

Under the terms of the existing agreement, Cricket Australia cannot force a broadcaster to screen live coverage of its domestic one-day competition, the Ryobi Cup, or the Sheffield Shield final.

Nine sources labelled the legal clarification by CA a "sideshow", saying it is disappointed with the games being played by CA's lawyers given the network has no interest in the Big Bash league.

Cricket Australia is expected to focus on the domestic cricket issue, and will argue in court that Nine has not matched the offer made by Ten, due to its stance on domestic cricket.

Nine is looking to retain the current forms of cricket it broadcasts; Test matches, one-day internationals, and Twenty20 cricket.

Ten, which declined to comment on a figure for its bid for the rights, is understood to have offered $400 million over five years for the forms of cricket on Nine, plus a further $100 million for the Big Bash league.

Nine and Foxtel paid $300 million under the previous five-year rights deal that did not include the Big Bash league, which is broadcast exclusively on Foxtel at the moment.

Cricket Australia is keen to get the popular new form of the game onto network television.

It will be necessary for Nine to meet the $400 million figure to retain its current line-up. Nine insiders said it is 50:50 whether it will decide to match Ten's offer.

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