Negotiations for the next TV rights deal are a prority for the ECB © Getty Images
Cricket fans who complain vociferously about the absence of live cricket on free-to-air TV might find mild consolation in Sky TV’s announcement that they intend to launch a new channel to showcase their live sports package to all their subscribers.
Sky have confirmed that live cricket will occasionally be among those sports made available to all their 12-million plus subscribers. Slightly less than half take out a sports package for an additional fee.
Sky Sports Mix is seen as offering an extra inducement for its subscribers not to leave Sky in favour of rivals such as BT Sport or Virgin.
Most attention has been given to Sky’s promise that it will air a number of live Premier League and Championship matches free of charge, but it is the mention of cricket that will interest the ECB as it pursues TV rights negotiations for the period beyond 2019.
Sky announced: “For the first time, millions more Sky customers will be able to watch a mix of live sport – including football, golf from Europe and the US, international cricket and much more – as part of their basic subscription packages.”
Women’s cricket will also be included.
The ECB remains committed to a future where most international cricket remains behind a paywall, adamant that the revenue gained is necessary to sustain the game, not just at first-class level but in terms of the women’s game and recreational cricket.
Nevertheless, there is unease about the fall in numbers in recreational cricket, which seem to signal lessening interest in the game, and which will tempt the ECB to explore the possibility of some live cricket being viewed free to air, beyond the England international highlights that are already available.
Discussions will centre not just upon England cricket, but on the availability of England’s domestic T20 tournament – in whatever form it takes from 2020 onwards.
Sky Sports Mix might become a useful bargaining chip as negotiations continue. It could not count as free-to-air for all, but any increase in cricket’s reach will be regarded as something worth talking about.
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Source: ESPN Crickinfo