When Sky flashed the cash and obtained the monopoly of cricket here in England there was countless debate over the extent of damage this would do the status of the game in this country.
The timing could not have been worse. Post-Ashes the nation was back in love with Cricket, grounds were reporting a growth in attendances and the game was buzzing again and the national team was treated like heroes. For a few glorious days they were the focal point of the news, the media and British sport. Engel makes the argument in the new Wisden that had this been on Sky, this wouldn’t have happened. The interest in the series would have been considerably lower due to lack of access. The argument is logical. Sky itself is in more homes than ever but the actual Sports channels are in well under 50% of homes in the nation. Probably much lower than half actually.
But we find ourselves in a situation where there is no chance of a potential fan switching on TV and being hooked by Cricket. There is no exposure to the game on terrestrial TV. To find Cricket on British TV you have to switch to the 4 dedicated sports channels.
I know this sounds like another “state of the game” rant but the lack of cricket coverage is annoying. Obviously there is a wider point here. Cricket is not going to go backwards without TV coverage, certainly not at a domestic level as frankly it has always survived and always will. But there is a lot of potential being missed out on. Even one game a month would be a good idea. If Sky weren’t such an unreasonable bunch they could say give a terrestrial station (Channel 4 the obvious choice or Channel 5 for instance which is owned by SKY) a match a month. If sky could increase interest in the CGT by making it available on a limited basis to terrestrial viewers then they could benefit too. I know many people who subscribe to Sky Sports just for Cricket and if they could help raise the status and exposure of the game they would benefit. It works for football. They hold a monopoly on the premiership and their business is boosted by the fact that football at other levels, domestic cups, internationals and European cups, is on terrestrial Tv every week. Football admittedly is a different kettle of fish to Cricket but there is a point in there and that is that exposure is key. Cricket has never had the exposure football has had in the last 30-40 years and hence football has been allowed to pull away as THE British Sport.
Now, I do think Sky should cover the County championship. After all they put an England U-19 test on Interactive last year so why can’t they do this with County Cricket? Surely it will get more of an audience than the endless repeats that clog up the Sports schedule across the four channels. Heck, Sky Sports Extra doesn’t even have programmes before 4pm on some days.
Other than that though I like sky’s coverage in general. Channel 4 did a great job and whilst it would be better all round if the Test matches at least were shown on terrestrial Tv I cannot fault Sky’s actual coverage (other than when they don’t have the rights and use a different broadcaster such as the India series).
They do show a nice range of top-class international Cricket but could and should show more. This year they have stepped it up a gear and we have a heck of a lot of OD’s and Test coming up between nations that aren’t England and Aus.
But Sky love the One Day game. TV prefers the One Day game and we can’t do anything about it. Domestically, Sky are focused solely on the CGT for the next few months and given that that very competition is a shambles in it new format we could be left with games being covered that don’t mean anything. Loose 3 games out of the first 5 and the competition is over for you.
But overall Cricket is more of a “spectator” sport than a lot of the sports we see on TV. Whether Sky hold the rights or not it isn’t going to lower crowds. Coverage on terrestrial TV may raise them but the lack of it is certainly not going to bring them down.
But are the pessimists right in their prediction of this being a bad move for the status game in the this country?