The Nine Network has announced that it has torn up the contracts of its entire cricket commentary team, replacing them with impersonator Billy Birmingham, the 12th Man, for the season 2016-17, as a result of brutal budget cuts.
With most TV networks tightening their belts in a competitive marketplace, the network has been considering the move for years and insiders say that it was “purely a cost-saving exercise, being able to pay one salary instead of ten.”
The commentary team made up of former cricketing legends, have a combined salary value of several million dollars. It’s understood that Birmingham has signed on for a fraction of that figure along with the rights to plug his back catalogue of 12th Man CDs and cassettes at intervals throughout the coverage. The move will save Nine millions of dollars over several seasons.
Birmingham has been impersonating the commentary team for years. “Look I’ve got Chapelli, Slats, Tubby Heals and Mark Nicholas down pat,” the 12th Man told Broken News. “I’ve been doing them for a long time. But I’ve spent the winter months working on some of the newer voices like Kevin Pietersen and Michael Clarke.”
“It’s bloody hard work. It’s not just getting the voice and the accents right, you’ve got to have anecdotes ready to go. I had to read Clarkey’s whole book last week to get inside his head. Turns out from page 300 onwards, it’s just an index of the hair products he uses.”
“I also had to get to know what makes Warnie tick, so I followed him on Instagram for a bit,” he says. “More selfies than the Kardashian family combined.”
Birmingham will provide the voices of the commentary team, while the intros, pitch reports and man-of-the-match presentations will be performed by the 3D holograms of the now “former” commentators that viewers know and love. It’s understood the Nine graphics department has been working overtime to have ready for the WACA Test.