Sun sets on Sky’s monopoly on cricket rights as BT, BBC and Facebook step up to bat

The new tournament will consist of eight teams,15 players per squad including three overseas players and 36 matches in 38 days

Sky and BT are expected to lock horns in a £1bn bidding war for the broadcast rights to the England and Wales Cricket Board’s (ECB) new Twenty20 tournament, with the BBC favourite to acquire the available free-to-air rights.

The ECB has held talks with various broadcasters during the past month and will now take final bids for the proposed deal, which will run from the launch of the tournament in 2020 until 2024, by 10am tomorrow (28 June).

Sky and BT are the two front runners expected to walk away with bulk of the rights and, according to reports in the Guardian, the bidding war between the two is expected to push the agreement past the £1bn mark.

This would be to the benefit for the BBC, which could see a lower asking price for the 12 Twenty20 fixtures which have been promised for free-to-air television. However, it is expected to face competition from ITV, Channel 4 and Channel 5.

Tom Harrison, chief executive of the ECB, is also understandably keen to expand the appeal of the sport to new audiences and would be welcoming of Facebook’s expected bid for short highlight clips.

The ECB has spoken openly of its desire to see live cricket return to the BBC following an 18-year absence, which has resulted in a decline in viewing figures and hurt the value of the sport.

Roger Mosey, former director of sport at the BBC, said the ECB’s decision to sell Sky the exclusive broadcast rights back in 2006 was short-sighted.

“We always said as terrestrial broadcasters that it was a mistake for cricket to put all its eggs into the pay basket,” he said. “There’s a neatness in exclusivity and a huge amount of money by going with one paid broadcaster but taking live cricket off terrestrial completely always looked like a mistake.”

Mosey argued that the BBC was better positioned to maximise the coverage of cricket given it had radio, online and TV at its disposal.

Aside from a new media strategy, the ECB eagerness to broaden the appeal of cricket has saw it develop a forward-thinking approach to digital and content marketing having taken inspiration from the likes of the UFC and moves more akin to digital agencies.

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