Ashes summer on commercial radio
Australian cricket's concerted shift towards commercial radio coverage has been accompanied by a warning from the ABC chief executive Mark Scott, that the national broadcaster should not be "taken for granted" after losing exclusive rights to broadcast the game.
Advanced negotiations for radio rights over the forthcoming summer are expected to result in the Ashes Tests being broadcast on Fairfax Radio's commercial networks, including 2UE in Sydney and 3AW in Melbourne, in addition to the ABC's Grandstand coverage. Rights to the Twenty20 Big Bash League are set to go to Southern Cross/Austereo's Triple M, the former employer of Cricket Australia's executive general manager for marketing, digital media and communications Ben Amarfio, while 3AW and SEN may also cover matches.
However, any radio coverage of the Sheffield Shield is in grave doubt due to an impasse between the ABC and CA. The national broadcaster is understood to have been asked to pay an additional fee for the rights to commentate on domestic matches, at the same time the Nine Network has had its outside broadcast costs paid for by CA in order to provide television coverage of the Ryobi Cup in Sydney this month. The ABC now appears likely to fill that gap in its coverage with other sports.
Audio streaming has also been a point of contention, with the ABC upset to have lost the rights to stream their own coverage. This audio will instead be offered exclusively through CA's own mobile, online and tablet apps, to be released closer to the start of the Ashes.
"I don't want Cricket Australia to take us for granted, just because we've been doing it for decades, I don't want it taken for granted," Scott told ABC Radio on Friday. "We're very disappointed, frankly, that CA won't let the ABC stream the cricket Tests on ABC websites. Some of the other sporting codes are doing it and I think that's disappointing.
"CA should also be aware there are many other sports who are knocking on our door, desperate to get coverage through ABC Grandstand. We'll be making some announcements around that in coming weeks. Grandstand will still be the home of sport in summer, and will still be the home of Test cricket."
Scott called into question the chances of commercial radio broadcasters showing any interest in cricket coverage outside high profile series such as the Ashes. The ABC's radio coverage has been exclusive since 2001, but in earlier years commercial broadcasters often covered individual matches of high audience interest such as Melbourne's Boxing Day Test.
"Commercial networks might want to pick it up, it's an Ashes summer, but our audiences know that when Pakistan and New Zealand are touring, we'll be there as well. We're not just going to cherry pick the big tours, we're there for the long haul," Scott said. "I'll be very interested if there's a viable commercial market for Test cricket with the ABC with our commentary commercial free, with our expertise on air.
"Cricket is the sound of summer on the ABC in Australia, and I think even if it's on a commercial broadcaster our audiences know we love cricket, we've been doing it for decades, we have outstanding commentators and that we'll be the place to go."
Daniel Brettig is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo. He tweets here