A radical shake-up to the existing ecosystem of selling television rights is under discussion by Full Members and will be examined further at the ICC's annual conference in Edinburgh later this month. The change, one part of a broader reworking of cricket's international calendar, is aimed at giving member boards better value for their television rights in overseas markets. If implemented, a new model could see boards take greater control than broadcasters of monetising the value of bilateral cricket as well as its promotion and visibility in untapped markets.
The crux of the proposal, made at the ICC chief executives committee meeting in April, is this: once the current cycle of television rights ends for respective Full Members, each board will continue to sell rights for its home territory and avail of those profits entirely as is already the case. But each board will place the rights to telecast its home series in overseas markets in a common pool into which other boards will also put those rights. The rights in the common pool will then be sold collectively as bundles by a committee of Full Members and the profits will be divided and distributed in certain percentages to the contributing boards.
For example, if New Zealand are hosting India, the NZC retains the ability to sell television rights for broadcast within New Zealand, but places the rights for broadcast in India and the rest of the world in the common pool; that pool already contains the overseas broadcast rights of other bilateral series such as, for example, Australia's tour of New Zealand or Sri Lanka's tour of West Indies. So if a broadcaster wants to telecast India's tour of New Zealand in India, it may have to purchase a bundle from this pool - in a similar way as the ICC sells its own events as part of a bundle - that also contains rights to the Australia-New Zealand series or the Sri Lanka-West Indies one, and it may have to mandatorily telecast those series in India as well.
This will be a change from the current system where the home board sells rights - either home and away or both - to a particular broadcaster and then leaves it to that broadcaster to on-sell the rights for overseas markets to other broadcasters. In some cases, boards have sold rights for a particular overseas market to an overseas broadcaster who has no interest in telecasting series not involving the broadcaster's home country. Under this new model, a committee composed of member board officials would be in charge of the on-selling.
ESPNcricinfo understands that the ECB floated the proposal and is currently part of a committee working on it, along with CSA, CA, NZC and the PCB. The proposal is currently at a conceptual stage, with details of how and what bundles will be sold, thin. But the overriding principle is that no participant in the common pool should be worse off financially compared to what it gets for its rights in overseas markets at present. The five boards on the committee are all in agreement on the principle.
Which way the BCCI goes will be a factor. It is understood that the BCCI has been informed of the proposal but their position on it is not yet known. Like other boards, under the proposal, the BCCI would retain control over the sale of rights in India - its primary market - and could stand to benefit by joining the common pool, if say rights in England for a West Indies tour of India stands to bring them more revenue than it does at present. It is believed, however, that the aim of the committee is to ensure a model that is workable with or without the BCCI.
Part of the driving force behind the proposal arises from the fear some boards have of a gradual dip in the value of their broadcast deals for bilateral series. There is also a feeling among some that broadcasters have not reaped the full monetary benefits of overseas rights in markets such as the US, where digital rights are a lucrative but untapped avenue for cricket; one of the model's benefits, its authors hope, will be to better expose cricket in such markets.
The proposal has not emerged in isolation. It is very much part of the broader restructuring of international cricket currently under discussion, one which envisages Test cricket as a two-tier system and ODI cricket as a rolling 13-team league. One committee of board chief executives has been looking at the calendar and format restructure while this committee has concentrated on the commercial aspects of such a restructure. The idea is that every bilateral match or series in this new restructuring will have some context, or some bearing upon a league table - that context, in theory hopes the committee, ultimately translates into a higher monetary value for any bilateral series in home markets and also overseas ones.