TV rights saga April 26, 2006

BBC could bid for TV rights in 2009

Cricinfo staff

Mark Thompson, the director general of the BBC, has said the corporation is considering bidding for the television rights when they next come up for tender in 2009. Last year, the ECB sold the rights to BSkyB who, from this year, hold an all-encompassing exclusive deal for the next four years.

Thompson, who was appointed director general in 2004, believes the BBC "should look very closely at cricket again," while refuelling the debate that the ECB's asking price was too high.

"I thought that the last round the amount the English cricket board were asking for the rights was very high [sic]," he told BBC Radio Five Live. "It's a more specialist audience - it's not as big, for example, for live Premiership football.

"We have to think about value. If you buy one thing, you can't buy another so what you're trying to do when you're thinking about the portfolio of rights is what's your priority."

The decision to sell the rights to BSkyB caused an uproar among supporters and even in government. John Grogan, a Labour MP, tabled an early-day motion in the House of Commons calling for home Test matches to be returned to free-to-air TV. And lobbyists, notably Keep Cricket Free, campaigned for the decision to be overturned.

Last November it was revealed that the BBC did attempt to reach a deal with the ECB by pushing for a "dip in dip out" basis; their proposal was to show shortened portions of the day's play allowing Sky to retain their ball-by-ball live coverage. However, as Thompson concedes, the limiting factor was the money involved.

"It depends not just on the choice of the sport, he said, "but also on how much it's going to cost."