Live international cricket will be returning to the BBC for the first time in 21 years – and to free-to-air TV for the first time since 2005 – after the ECB announced a new broadcasting deal on Friday (June 30). Sky Sports fought off the advances of BT Sport to be the main broadcaster in a combined package worth GBP 1.1billion over five years.
The new deal, which comes in to force in 2020, will see 21 live matches on the BBC each year, the first cricket on the free-to-air channel since 1999. This will include 2 England men’s T20I matches and one England women’s T20I game per year plus matches in the new franchise T20 competition which also begins in 2020. The BBC also won the rights to show primetime highlights of all England games and clips of action on their digital platforms plus the rights for radio broadcast of all domestic and international cricket.
It is also a victory for Sky Sports who have had the exclusive rights to England’s internationals since 2005. They have had to compromise by sharing some international matches with the BBC – although they retain the exclusive rights to the current domestic competitions – but will be nonetheless pleased to have beat off the advances of their competitors. BT Sport, who will be showing this winter’s Ashes series, were a real contender to be awarded the deal and had the financial clout to do so but the ECB decided to stick with Sky in a show of faith.
“This is a great result for cricket. ECB has secured the reach, revenue and relevance the game deserves, to help it to grow,” Tom Harrison, ECB chief executive, said. “Together, these new deals will deliver the partnership, distribution and investment that will fuel the future of our game, driving recreational, professional and international cricket for years to come. Sky Sports have offered a true partnership – more than a broadcast deal – with their shared vision for cricket. Their innovation and production standards are widely acclaimed. Here, they further increase their live commitment and have added bold ideas to drive engagement and to help to get a bat and ball in more hands.
“BBC are valuable long-term partners, bringing cricket to listeners, viewers and a new digital audience. We are delighted they will go to another level with live coverage of international and domestic T20 – men’s and women’s – alongside prime-time highlights shows and a commitment to taking the game to even wider audiences. Right through this process we’ve been excited to witness a fresh approach to the game and what it offers. This has transformed our relationships and our media deals. I want to thank everyone who has talked with us, shown their enthusiasm and added to our vision for the future.”
Part of the ECB’s plan was to always have some free-to-air cricket in the new deal. While Sky’s relationship with the ECB has pumped valuable money in to the game – allowing the England team and English cricket more generally to develop – it has meant that the nation’s summer game has been hidden behind a paywall, invisible to vast swathes of the country. As a result, England’s current players can be seen by only a small percentage of the population. Two years ago, an American wrestler was found to be more recognisable to children than Alastair Cook, one of England’s greatest ever players.
“Through these exceptional new partnerships with Sky Sports and BBC we have a unique opportunity to give cricket a very bright future,” said Colin Graves, ECB chairman. “It is vital that the game now takes time to plan ahead and invest strategically in all the right places. The ECB Board will lead on this, working closely with all of our stakeholders at every level of the game.”
With such a vast sum of money entering the game, it is sure that the players will want an increased slice of the pie. Perhaps in a nod to the current pay dispute in Australia, Graves said the players would “rightly be part of these discussions.” England’s men have a pay deal which runs to 2019 so there is time before such discussions intensify but the counties too will want to see their fair share of the GBP 1.1billion pot. Steve Denison, Yorkshire’s chairman, told Cricbuzz earlier this month that he thought there was a “huge willingness on behalf of the ECB to get more money in to the clubs more quickly” but it remains to be seen what happens in the short term.
MEDIA RIGHTS DISTRIBUTION: 2020 TO 2024Sky Sports:Test matches Live / Highlights / Clips
International T20 – men Live / Highlights / Clips
One-Day Internationals – men Live / Highlights / Clips
England women’s Internationals Live / Highlights / Clips
New T20 competition Live / Highlights / Clips
Women’s T20 competition Live / Highlights / Clips
County Championship Live / Highlights / Clips
County T20 Live / Highlights / Clips
One-Day Cup Live / Highlights / Clips
BBC TV:Test matches Highlights / Clips
International T20 – men 2 x Live / Highlights / Clips
One-Day Internationals – men Highlights / Clips
England women’s internationals 1x T20 Live / Highlights / Clips
New T20 competition 10 x Live incl. Final / Clips
Women’s T20 competition 8 x Live incl. Final / Clips
County Championship Clips
County T20 Clips
One-Day Cup Clips
BBC Radio:Live coverage of all competitions, domestic and international