Nine sport boss Tom Malone talks Summer of Cricket

Nine head of sport revels in summer of cricket and netball

Tom Malone with Bill Lawry

It might be an odd time to focus on the cricket, during the fortnight of the Olympic Games, but that is what Nine Entertainment Co has done with Summer of Cricket launch events in Sydney and Melbourne. Nine is showing some love to the media buyers and advertisers who aren’t travelling on Seven coin to sunny Rio.

Nine’s relatively new head of sport Tom Malone is the keynote speaker at the launch events, along with Nine’s chief sales officer Michael Stephenson and director of sales – sport, Sam Brennan.

“Cricket is the only sport that truly unites families and brings them together.”

Nine Entertainment Co’s CEO Hugh Marks offered Malone the new role to replace Steve Crawley, who moved to Fox Sports earlier this year. Malone departed his former role as 60 Minutes EP just days before the Beirut crisis unfolded. After narrowly dodging that bullet, he was nearly hit by another, with fingers being pointed at him again over what some called a misguided apology made via the NRL Footy Show to an NRL player profiled on 60 Minutes.

Looking forward to his new role, Malone told Mediaweek one day between the two cricket launches: “Rugby League in winter and the cricket in the summer are what you could call the tier one sports on Nine.”

Tom Malone, Ian Chappell, Brent Williams, Michael Slater and Ian Healy

Tom Malone, Ian Chappell, Brent Williams, Michael Slater and Ian Healy

One thing the cricket has over the NRL is that it attracts equally big crowds in every  TV market for Nine and its affiliate partner SCA. Malone: “Cricket is the only sport that truly unites families and brings them together. That is one of the propositions we are taking to market. It is a unifying sport over summer that combines the values that Australians share.”

Apart from Ashes cricket in England, Nine’s cricket rights are restricted to matches played in Australia for tests, one-day and international T20.

“All our sports are equally challenging and we certainly don’t take for granted what we need to do well each year in NRL and the cricket.”

Although the cricket schedule is similar to previous seasons, Nine is able to call this the biggest summer ever because of the amount of cricket played in primetime. There will be six test matches, between South Africa and Pakistan, which include day/night tests in Adelaide and Brisbane, plus the Perth test which features the final session in primetime for east coast markets. There will also be eight one-day internationals – three against New Zealand and five against Pakistan. There will also be three international T20s against Sri Lanka.

When asked if successfully launching the new 2017 netball competition was Malone’s biggest challenge, he replied: “Not really. All our sports are equally challenging and we certainly don’t take for granted what we need to do well each year in NRL and the cricket. They both need constant attention and cultivation to make sure we are doing the best possible broadcast.”

Tom Malone, Amanda Laing and Brent Williams

Tom Malone, Amanda Laing and Brent Williams

Nine still has a small amount of domestic cricket which is pretty much off the radar given its launch in October on Gem, just days after the NRL Grand Final. The competition is called the Matador Cup and runs for 13 games, ending on Sunday October 23. When asked if there was potential to market the domestic one-day games to a bigger audience as Fox Sports and then TEN did with The Big Bash, Malone noted Nine leaves the scheduling of cricket to Cricket Australia.

Room for more sport?

Malone told Mediaweek there was always room for the right sport if the network thought it would fit alongside its existing assets. “Now we have netball there might be less room, but if there is something attractive we would certainly look at it if it fits in with the business strategy.”

Nine is not taking part in the current talks over future A-League rights, with Fox Sports believed to be in exclusive talks at present.

“Sporting rights negotiations in future will be interesting for everyone. Networks can’t keep paying more and more and then asking advertisers to pay more and more. We need to better commercialise the sport we are broadcasting.”

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