Seven bests Nine in cricket

'Ashes,' next 2 seasons to enhance Stokes' sports arm

SYDNEY — Kerry Stokes’ Seven Network has snatched away from arch-rival the Nine Network free-to-air and pay TV rights to the Australia-England “Ashes” Test cricket series in England in 2001 and the next two cricket seasons in Blighty.

That’s a coup for Seven, undermining Nine’s position as the traditional home of Test cricket, and it reinforces Seven’s claim to be the Australian market leader in sports programming.

“We are delighted to welcome cricket to Seven. Today’s agreement represents a significant breakthrough which will further enhance our sports portfolio and confirm our leadership in sports television,” Seven CEO Gary Rice said.

Sports channel boost

Seven sees the big-league cricket matches as a driver for its recently launched sports channel on cabler Optus, and plans to introduce other sports services, all of which will be offered to other carriers in six months.

Seven now boasts the rights to five major international sports events: the President’s Cup in Melbourne later this year; World Cup rugby in the U.K. next year; the Sydney Olympic Games in 2000; the Australia-England cricket series in 2001; and the Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City, Utah, in 2002.

The web also covers all Australia’s major soccer international games and the Wallabies’ rugby union Test matches.

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