Prospect of UK FTA live coverage of Cricket World Cup climax fades
Sky, the UK pay-television operator, has decided not to show the 2019 ICC Men's Cricket World Cup final on free-to-air television even if host nation England reaches the last stage of the competition, according to media reports.
Sky Sports holds exclusive domestic live rights to International Cricket Council events in a deal running from 2015 to 2023, but given that this year's tournament is taking place in England and Wales, had come under pressure to grant wider access to the match at Lord's in London on 14 July.
However, the UK's Times newspaper claimed that there were never serious discussions about showing the final free-to-air, even if England are involved, but could offer it on Sky One, its flagship entertainment channel, to draw a larger audience.
Sky One is included in all Sky TV packages, and has a UK reach of 12 million, almost double that of Sky Sports.
England yesterday beat New Zealand to make the World Cup semi-finals for the first time since 1992, and are set to play India or Australia next week.
Last month, Dave Richardson, the outgoing chief executive of the ICC, claimed that Sky was in talks with the England and Wales Cricket Board about making the final free to watch.
Richardson said at that point: “We are hopeful that something can be arranged in that regard.”
Rival pay-TV operator BT Sport showed this year's Uefa Champions League and Europa League soccer finals for free in the UK on its YouTube channel, although that was a condition of its contract with Uefa given that both matches involved English clubs.
The ICC is said to be aware of Sky's desire to retain exclusive live coverage, and Star India, the governing body's global broadcast partner, is also satisfied with the decision. If Sky had made the final available free-to-air, it would have been entitled to a rebate.
The ICC and the ECB will be eager for the largest possible UK audience for the Cricket World Cup final, especially as the event coincides with Formula 1's British Grand Prix and the men’s singles final at tennis’ Wimbledon Championships, both of which will be shown live on free-to-air television.
The Cricket World Cup final has not been televised live on a free-to-air basis since 1999, the last time England hosted the event.
The BBC, the UK's public-service broadcaster, has been providing World Cup match clips online, to accompany its live radio coverage of the event, while there are daily highlights on commercial TV network Channel 4 through a sub-licensing agreement with Sky and Star.
For a Sportcal Insight feature on the TV production behind the Cricket World Cup click here.