CHANNEL Nine's four decade involvement in cricket broadcasting appears to be over with Foxtel and Channel 7 the big winners in the new cricket rights deal.

Foxtel have been the major winner and reportedly purchased the rights to all major cricket in Australia in a rights package believed to top $1 billion.

Channel 7 are understood to have beaten Channel 10 to buy the right to broadcast some of the matches, including Tests, on free-to-air television.

Fox cannot act alone as anti-siphoning laws decree major international cricket must be shown on free-to-air television.

Channel Nine's relationship with cricket had become strained in recent years after revelations it was losing more than $30 million a year on international cricket.

Chief executive Hugh Marks had made it clear that for Nine to continue to broadcast the cricket it would have to be a financially viable proposition.

Nine recently won the rights to broadcast tennis in Australia for $60 million a year, a clear sign its interest in cricket was fading.

Cricket officials felt that figure was overpriced because they wanted a similar amount per year for the Big Bash and felt it would have been better value at the same price.

Nine had held the cricket rights since Kerry Packer won control of them in the late 1970s after the end of World Series Cricket.

Fox had lobbied hard for the rights because it was keen to enhance its appeal to subscribers in the summer months.

Fox played a key role in the development of the Big Bash before Ten won the rights to the competition five years ago.

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