Channel 5 brings back live cricket on free-to-air TV after decade-long absence

Channel 5 will show live coverage of five Big Bash League matches

Channel 5 is bringing cricket back to free-to-air TV in the UK for the first time in a decade after agreeing terms with Australia’s Big Bash League (BBL) T20 cricket tournament.

The broadcaster will show five live matches from the franchise league, in addition to highlights of high-profile matches such as the final on 28 January 2017.

Mark Pougatch will host the coverage alongside former England captain Michael Vaughan, former Perth Scorchers batsman Michael Carberry and England’s leading Test match wicket-taker James Anderson.

While financial terms of the deal have not been released, specialist outlet Cricbuzz claims that Channel 5’s owner Viacom paid a six-figure sum for the broadcast deal.

ITV4 and Dave have previously shown coverage of the Indian Premier League and Caribbean Premier League in recent years, however the current deal marks the sport's return to mainstream free-to-air broadcast for the first time since the 2005 Ashes.

Sky Sports has shown the last two seasons of the BBL, however earlier this year BT Sport agreed a £80m deal with Cricket Australia (CA) for the rights to Australia's home internationals and the Big Bash League for the next five years.

The move will come as a huge boost for the sport given the dwindling viewing figures since the free-to-air exodus. Sky Sports’ Ashes final day coverage last year had a TV audience of 467,000 while Channel 4’s coverage in 2005 drew an audience of 8.2 million people on the Sunday.

The lack of free coverage has also impacted on the participation levels of the sport. A comparison of Sport England Active People survey found a 32% decline in participation levels in people aged over 16 since coverage of the sport moved to satellite and cable TV.

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Tony Connelly

I cover media, marketing and sponsorship news within the sports industry. This includes breaking news as well as writing feature pieces with insights from experts in the sports marketing world.

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