New Twenty20 competition could ensure cricket’s return to UK FTA
A new city-based domestic Twenty20 cricket competition could ensure that live English cricket returns to free-to-air television in the UK for the first time since 2005.
The England and Wales Cricket Board is set to discuss the proposed eight-team tournament, broadly modelled on Australia’s Big Bash League and the Indian Premier League, at its meeting this month.
Tom Harrison, chief executive of the ECB, told the Financial Times that the body hopes to widen the television audience for the sport in UK as well as tackle the decline in participation, with a free-to-air television rights deal for the new tournament.
He said: “We have no ambition to be the richest, most irrelevant sport in this country. Have we been having conversations with free-to-air [channels for the new tournament]? Absolutely… Am I convinced they will be at the table? Yes.”
The ECB had initially hoped to introduce the new competition as early as 2018, but in October, it was reported that its introduction would be delayed until 2020 because of serious reservations among some of the counties, and the existing television rights deal with pay-TV’s Sky which expires that year.
If and when the proposal does receive the go-ahead, the ECB would launch a formal tender process for the television rights of the competition, which is estimated to cost £30 million ($37 million) a year to run. The ECB would have to consider how to package the rights, after a decade of selling its rights exclusively to Sky, in view of its professed ambition to attract younger viewers to the game.
Channel 5, the UK commercial broadcaster, this year offered a selection of live matches from Australian cricket’s Big Bash League, which was the first time any live cricket had been shown on a mainstream TV channel in the UK since the 2005 Ashes series between England and Australia.
There has, however, been live coverage of the Indian Premier League and the Caribbean Premier League on the ITV4 and Dave channels, respectively, in recent years.