England TV rights January 31, 2012

Sky seals new four-year deal with ECB


There will be no live cricket on free-to-view television until at least 2017 following the ECB's announcement today that it has renewed its exclusive deal with Sky TV.

Emphasis has remained determinedly focused on securing maximum revenue to protect the financially stricken first-class game, in defiance of the protests of a vociferous free-to-air lobby. The ECB will claim that this has been achieved after securing a deal that is thought to be comparable to the previous agreement, which industry sources estimated at £280m over four years.

Sky Sports, the only serious bidder, has won the rights to show live domestic and international cricket in England and Wales from 2014-17 as part of a package that includes all England's home Tests, ODIs and T20I series, selected England Lions and England women fixtures, plus 60 days of domestic cricket every season.

The deal also includes an option to extend for a further two years, which would encompass tours by India in 2018 and Australia in 2019 and would, presumably, neatly sidestep any potential government legislation that might be introduced to give the Ashes series "crown jewels" status and so demand it was available free of charge.

Giles Clarke, the ECB chairman, who led the talks alongside the commercial director John Perera, made no apologies for the deal. "No-one should be in any doubt that our partnership with Sky has been of immense benefit to the wider game," he said. "World-class support structures for our successful England teams, major ground improvements at county level, a flourishing coach education programme and a 5% increase in participation at our 'Focus' clubs are all by-products of this relationship."

The ECB has also announced a new deal with Channel 5 for England highlights, with an early evening slot for transmission going some way to appeasing critics.

Thanks to the announcement last week of a new six-year deal with BBC Radio, the ECB is able to claim that "broadcasting agreements for the next contractual cycle will deliver an overall increase in revenues compared with the previous four-year period". It is a marginal claim at best.

The awarding of TV rights followed an open tender process in which all broadcasters were invited to bid for a variety of packages, which included the rights to individual Test matches, series or competitions, and a mixture of live and highlights programming.

In a major economic downturn, the ECB will be satisfied with maintaining the status quo. It is certainly aware of the art of timing. It negotiated the last deal just before the banking crash and it has rushed through this deal to try to capitalise on England's No. 1 Test ranking - just before the cricketing crash, some might say, after England's horrendous defeats in the first two Tests against Pakistan.

Millions of cricket lovers, unwilling or unable to contemplate pay TV, will not be appeased, whatever the benefits. The images of England's 2005 Ashes win and the open-top bus ride through London still resonate and many put that down to the fact that the Test series was available for all to watch.

In 2009 a review led by David Davies, a former executive director of the Football Association, recommended that England's home Ashes Tests should return to the "crown jewels" list of protected free-to-air events. The ECB dubbed the conclusions "deeply flawed" and warned of mass cutbacks if the proposals were accepted.

The previous Labour government suggested it was of a mind to accept Davies' recommendations but the 2010 general election brought a change of government and an announcement by the incoming sports minister, Hugh Robertson, that any decision would be delayed until 2013 - time enough for Ashes series up to and including 2019 to be secured by pay TV.

David Hopps is the UK editor of ESPNcricinfo

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Devinderpal Singh on February 2, 2012, 13:56 GMT

    Money that goes "into" the English county system is irrelevant when imports are selected for the England team...

  • Robert on February 1, 2012, 20:49 GMT

    What great news for English cricket. They need this revenue to pay competitive salaries to attract talent to the game. Shame that the BBC would rather pump their money into obscure sports and hefty salaries for their executives than our national game. Don't blame the ECB for this decision - blame the BBC. You can't expect the players to do what they do for nothing - especially when you compare the rewards for golf, tennis, football etc.

  • Mark on February 1, 2012, 11:57 GMT

    I have sky, I watch lots of cricket, England internationals, other countries internationals and domestic fixtures. Sky's cricket coverage is excellent and I also use sky go so I can craftily watch a bit of cricket in my lab. I get that people can't afford sky though so it's important that the highlights can be shown at a time kids are awake, not at 11pm.

  • Dummy4 on January 31, 2012, 23:45 GMT

    Boo! Hiss! What a massive mistake.

  • Mike on January 31, 2012, 23:01 GMT

    From what I can gather Sky are the only party interested in paying for domestic and international cricket rights, so what's the problem? Channel 4 / BBC or whoever would only want the Ashes and would split the days between horse racing and cricket.

    I do subscribe to Sky, and for that I get to watch virtually all International Cricket and not just England games. Yes Sky costs me a bit each month, but so would going to Lords at 90 quid a pop.

    Not convinced that the ECB should refuse to sell the rights to the one bidder who is investing in the infrastructure of the game as well as dedicating it's airtime to the sport just so that once every home Ashes people can watch it for free.

  • Nilantha on January 31, 2012, 18:49 GMT

    sky's HD coverage is SUPERB...aren't there still highlights on channel 5 so allowing those not on sky to at least see some cricket?

  • James on January 31, 2012, 18:19 GMT

    Immense benefit? - right does that include the fact that Islington (pop 170,000) may be about to have no cricket ground where adults can play? If you are in on this ECB gravy train wonderful if you are not hard luck. I have helped found and / or run at least four cricket clubs but I can't afford Sky all year round (odd month every year I get to watch cricket) and I can't afford to go the Tests and shortly won't be able to afford to play because cricket ground hire is getting too expensive meaning match fees are prohibitive.

  • John on January 31, 2012, 17:45 GMT

    I'm trying to understand this. Does Pay TV mean a new channel , seperate from Sky or and additional PPV channel or just that Sky have retained the rights to show all England matches. Obviously if it is the former 2 then it is not great.If the latter then no change as Sky show pretty much all the cricket these days anyway and I'd have thought that most people who like sport in general would subscribe to Sky anyway. Were Sky not showing the 2005 Ashes then or was that on BBC or whatever? If they are trying PPV on cricket then best of luck to them. They tried it on football a few years ago and that didn't work so I couldn't see it happening with cricket.

  • Matthew on January 31, 2012, 17:09 GMT

    @jbentham Couldn't agree more. Has anyone actually got sky? Everyone I know can't afford it. How do they survive?

  • Dummy4 on January 31, 2012, 16:46 GMT

    Channel 5 never show the T20 internationals which is poor. Can understand why the ECB have gone to sky but the BBC could have made an effort to show live matches and share the coverage with Sky. Sky is monopolising the media industry. Sky's problems is the cost for Sky to watch your national team is far too expensive. Ian Bothams comentry style grates me ,Michael Atherton and David Gower are bland. Ian Ward has a forced slightly falsetastic voice which a few sky sports presenters have. The other one being Jeff Sterling.

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