Sky TV deal under the spotlight August 26, 2009

Ashes climax watched by a fraction of 2005 audience

Cricinfo staff
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Those who argue the ECB's decision to give exclusive rights to English cricket to Sky TV has reduced access to the game will be quick to seize on the viewing figures for the last day of the Ashes series at The Oval on Sunday as ammunition

Just under two million watched the climax of the game, and the average throughout the day was 856,000. Channel Five's early-evening highlights, the only way for terrestrial viewers to see any action, was watched by about two million as well.

This compares with the figures for the end of the Ashes in 2005, the last match to be shown free-to-air under the old Channel 4 deal. On that occasion 7.4 million saw the conclusion of the game even though it took place on a Monday. Between lunch and the close the channel averaged 4.7 million viewers, over five times as many as saw Sky this time round.

Labour MP Derek Wyatt, until recently aide to sports minister Gerry Sutcliffe, said it was time for the ECB to examine its strategy rather than for the government to force it to deal with free-to-air broadcasters, as many are demanding.

"It's for the ECB to redefine what it does," he said. "The public has lost its way and are confused. If it has any sense, it would recognise that it needs terrestrial coverage and that should be in any future contract."