TV rights saga November 10, 2005

BBC pushed ECB for live cricket

Cricinfo staff

The BBC attempted to reach a deal with the ECB for live Test match coverage, on a "dip in dip out" basis before deciding not to bid for the contract which was awarded to Sky Sports.

In an ongoing saga which refuses to die down, it was reported yesterday by Dominic Coles, the BBC director of sports rights and finance, that the BBC's proposal was to "dip in and out" of the cricket by showing shortened portions of the day's play - the odd two-hour session of a Test match, for example - allowing Sky to retain their ball-by-ball live coverage. The corporation held 15 meetings with the ECB in talks which Coles described as "fruitful" - but it will be another four years, though, until the BBC can bid again for the rights.

Speaking to the Guardian, he said the discussions had included "all permutations" to reach a more flexible arrangement. But, as of next summer, the only cricket available on terrestrial television will be highlights on channel Five. Despite being outbid by Channel 4 in 1999, Roger Mosey, the BBC's director of sport, confirmed the corporation's pledge to bring cricket back to terrestrial free-to-air television. "We have an obligation to licence fee payers to secure some of the rights," he told The Guardian today. "We will look very hard at the schedules...Sky wants to drive subscriptions and pays a premium because it is pay-TV."

In response to their all encompassing coverage for the next four years, Sky today have offered several deals and discounts to members of first-class counties, minor counties and MCC. However, despite this offering, it remains to be seen whether members will be prepared for the increased cost of watching live Test cricket.

MPs are to hold an enquiry into the ECB's decision to sell the broadcasting rights to satellite television at Westminster on November 29.