BBC to show “some” live cricket from 2020 as highlights move from Channel 5

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The England and Wales Cricket Board has recently accepted that it needs to get some live cricket onto free-to-air TV. The question most of us have been asking is what constitutes “some”.

From 2020 (appropriately enough) the BBC will be showing two men’s and one women’s T20 internationals each summer. They’ve also won the right to broadcast Test highlights from Channel 5. After Champions Trophy highlights were dumped at midnight, Test Match Special’s Jonathan Agnew made it clear that highlights will be shown at prime time, which is something of a relief.

The Beeb will also broadcast 10 men’s matches from the ECB’s new competition, The Hundred, including the final, and up to eight matches from the women’s equivalent, again including the final.

What does this mean?

It means everyone will be able to watch some cricket and with the finals of The Hundred secured, much of that will have some sort of context too. It won’t just be random matches in a competition you can’t follow to the end.

Conversely, you can well imagine the T20 internationals might be the kinds of low priority fixtures we often see played at the start or end of a tour. Or maybe the very fact that they’ll be broadcast live on the BBC might mean a proper turn-out from all the stars. That could prove an interesting development. If that proves to be the case, the next rights deal for 2025 onwards could be an interesting one.

Where’s the rest of the live cricket going to be broadcast?

On Sky Sports – which, considering they announced a channel called Sky Cricket earlier this week, should have been pretty bloody obvious. It was highly unlikely they’d have been keen to devote a whole channel to an insect.

There’s good news there though with talk that you might be able to subscribe to just that one channel, which would presumably work out a bit/lot cheaper.

Currently, the Now TV pay-as-you-go service is our recommendation because you can pay for Sky Sports alone and only for the periods when there’s something you want to watch. Here are the pros and cons of watching cricket via Now TV.

What about Channel 5?

Nowt. We’re a bit sad for them really, because they’ve been holding the fort all this time and have been doing a super job. It’ll be interesting/irritating to see how quickly the BBC get up to speed highlights-wise.


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  1. Really hope that the BBC’s idea of “up to speed” is locking Jonathan Trott in a commentary box and just kind of forgetting he’s there until one day then finally let him out, only to discover that he’s filled up dozens of hard-drives with talk of the adverts, Shane Warne’s face and the endless repeats of the 2005 Edgbaston test.

    Finally someone asks why he didn’t sleep in the camp bed they provided and he tells them he used it to practise marking his guard but that he finally overdid it and 6 inches have been gouged out of the concrete floor.

  2. That’s today’s plan anyway. Tomorrow? That’s different. When Auntie Beeb realises just what it’s done and needs to cut costs in order to pay more cooks to make yet more tasteless stuff hot or cold in a big tent in a field somewhere, or “news” readers need more shoes for walking around a news studio or for funding weather forecasters for appallingly bad “local” news, it’ll change. Off Auntie will go, toque in hand, to Sky and do a deal with them for what was their share of the price.

    I offer Formula 1 and BDO darts as the most recent examples of the trend set back earlier when the Beeb abandoned their cricket coverage in favour of Sky.

    I don’t believe it will happen, at least, not as anticipated.

  3. Am I the only one among us who worries that, with the only BBC offerings being T20 and most of that being this new franchise/city stuff and none of it being county stuff, young people might rapidly form the view that county cricket is a lesser and/or irrelevant thing?

    Yes, all in favour of free to air offerings, but this seems very limited and too specific to my taste.

    1. Young people might rapidly form that view regardless of what happens on BBC Ged. One thing I notice these days (at least here in India) is that people hardly talk cricket compared to my generation when we were schoolboys. Some have other forms of entertainment that were largely absent during my formative years (video games, internet) while others just don’t really care for the sport. There’s also a subsection that is totally disillusioned what with all the IPL scandals and so forth. Oh well.

    2. Could really have done with a Test match in my opinion. I don’t think you’re ever going to get much TV audience for 4-day county matches, no matter how hard you sell it and how accessible the channel is, but Tests are the marquee of the longer form of the game. (I’d say marquee form of cricket full stop, at least “cricket as we know it”, but with the rapid evolution of T20 and the development of very-short-form specialists, I am no longer sure that Tests are the apex anymore.)

      1. Interesting to recall that when cricket first began its journey to subscription TV, Sky had the live rights to one Test each summer.

        Anyone remember which it was? Was it the first of the season?

      2. I suppose with T20 the TV bods can safely allocate a fixed time in the live schedules without fear of over or under running and can fill with adverts and general chatter accordingly. I agree with Ged, above, but, despite bad timing with rain, I wonder weather the day night stuff might keep county cricket going. Difficult to chintz up county matches with pom poms though. TV execs are looking for the bucks. Also, generally, is T20 adhering to general short attention spans, so ideal viewing in that respect. I’d love to see ODIs broadcast but even then you could be looking at an hour or two to fill. Look at England’s wobbler at Lord’s.

      3. First time this happened was 1999 according to , when the only home Test series was 4 Tests against the Kiwis (which NZ won 2-1, I recall Vettori and Cairns being v. good that summer). Sky had been been showing England’s overseas Tests since the 1990 tour of the West Indies, as well as overseas ODIs and all the World Cups since 1992. In 1995 they got the rights to domestic ODIs as well, according to Cricinfo – I think this was exclusive coverage for all home ODIs from the 1995 Texaco Trophy onwards. Certainly highlights from that series on youtube have Sky graphics, but for the 1996 and 1997 editions I can see some clips with BBC graphics – I suspect, though, that these came from the BBC’s highlights show rather than the live footage.

        I tried finding old TV listings for final consultation but can only find Radio Times archives which at the time covered BBC channels only! However I did find highlight clips for the 1999 NZ Test series series, which show that it was definitely the First Test on Sky and the rest on Channel 4. Most people will recall that match for England batting their way to victory with Alex Tudor reaching 99 not out as a nightwatchman. Must have wished the Kiwis had scored a few more. From memory the split stayed that way while Tests were shared between Channel 4 and Sky (it all went exclusively Sky in 2006) but I may very well be wrong. Trying a random year to check: in 2003 there were two Test series, the first against South Africa and the second against Zimbabwe. Grame Smith got his 277 in the First Test and the highlights have Sky’s graphics, so it does look like “first Test of the summer” still applied. But not the first of each home series: Channel 4 got some criticism for its poor coverage of the First Test against Zimbabwe, what with coverage switching between C4 and FilmFour during the racing, and ending at 6 pm entirely to broadcast the game-show “Your Face or Mine”, thereby missing Jimmy Anderson’s late wicket of Vermeulen. FilmFour was already on to its evening programme of films by then, so you couldn’t even channel hop to catch it. Cutting short Vermeulen’s innings like that, Channel 4 HQ is lucky to still be left standing.

      4. “Your Face Or Mine” sounds like an exceptionally easy quiz show. Does it look like me in a mirror? That’ll be my face then. Oh it doesn’t. Well in that case it is somebody else, and not me after all! My grand prize, please.

        (I hope His Majesty approves my pending comment in short order or this is going to look like one of my less congruous replies.)

      5. I am pretty sure that the 1st 1999 (Edgbaston) test was shown live on Channel 4; perhaps Sky’s highlights deal (they showed highlights for all the tests from 1999 until their all-in deal from 2006) enabled them also to broadcast one of the tests live.

        Intriguingly from a personal point of view, Day One of that test was my first ever visit to Edgbaston and my first ever day watching professional cricket with the likes of Charley “The Gent” Malloy, Nigel “Father Barry” White, Big Papa Zambezi Jeff and others.

        I recall the Alex Tudor 99* denouement of that match on the Saturday. I am 99%* sure that I watched that denouement with Daisy on the TV (rather than listening to it on the radio) and am 100% sure that we had no Sky Sports subscription in 1999.

      6. It wasn’t an also. We remember being pissed off about not being able to watch.

      7. Ged, 1999-2005 is certainly the correct date range for the C4/Sky split of the English summer, and as to whether Sky had the live TV rights to one of the Tests, the “perhaps” is a “definitely, according to Wikipedia and Cricinfo (this what was meant to follow the “according to …” in my original post, but I did actually remember to include those links elsewhere!). In fact Cricinfo says 1998 but I believe that means when the deal was signed rather than when it started. (Though when Cricinfo says 1995 for the ODI deal, it does seem to have started in 1995, confusingly.)

        But as to which Test it was, I can’t pin down anything more conclusive than those TV highlights – and as I discovered when looking up the ODI situation, sometimes but not always the highlights broadcasters put on their own graphics, which makes it less than totally conclusive. However, since that highlights clip features all four matches, it would be odd for it to use Sky graphics for the first and C4 for the rest unless this did match the way they were broadcast.

        However … if I saw anything on Sky it was always on someone else’s TV, and I’m extremely confident I didn’t do that in 1999 (though I know I did in e.g. 2002). And yet I too have a recollection of watching Tudor’s innings, which was rather memorable. I think I must be mentally conflating the highlights show for the match, possibly with listening to TMS live.

        Presumably the match highlights were shown on Channel 4. Did that make it the very first broadcast of C4 cricket? Does anyone remember it as a distinct event? The C4 highlights I can recall were always billed as “Today At The Test”, even for the Winter tour matches that C4 had only highlights rights to. Yet somehow I don’t recall the launch show as a big event.

      8. Weird. Perhaps I too am recalling watching the highlights, that evening, so I can visualise the Tudor 99*.

        The odd thing is, the highlights you have linked through above show the C4 logo whereas the Sky highlights show the Sky logo.

        But I think it must have been broadcast on Sky because the Sky highlights show Charles Colville at the toss and I’m pretty sure that only the main broadcaster would be the designated tosser:

      9. Interesting. To add to the puzzle, there are some clips on Youtube recorded off C7 Sport – which is according to Wikipedia a defunct Australia-only pay-tv channel – from the second test (that one includes the infamous Cairns wicket of Chris Read) and third test (Craig McMillan century) featuring Sky graphics and commentators.

        There must also be a mistake on the Cricinfo page that claimed Sky had the rights to “one npower Test” … the sponsor is clearly still Cornhill Insurance, and Cornhill didn’t confirm they would not renew their deal until December 1999, with the final Cornhill Test taking place against the Windies at the Oval in August 2000, and the ECB only getting pen to paper with npower in January 2001.

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