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Making World Cup final free-to-air could turn more on to cricket, claims analyst

UK & international sports | Published:

England and Wales Cricket Board is in talks with Sky about plans for broadcasting the final.

The World Cup final will take place at Lord's on July 14

Cricket could win back a significant number of fans if the World Cup final is shown live on free-to-air television in the United Kingdom, claimed a leading media research analyst.

Sky has exclusive rights to show the World Cup live in the UK, with highlights on Channel 4 and BBC Sport’s website.

But the England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB) is in talks with Sky about broadcasting the final, at Lord’s on July 14, on free-to-air television.

England’s Joe Root and Ben Stokes celebrate their latest World Cup win against West Indies
England’s Joe Root and Ben Stokes celebrate their latest World Cup win against West Indies (Steven Paston/PA)

“Having more awareness and availability on free-to-air is good for boosting longer-term interest in the sport,” Richard Broughton, research director at media analysts Ampere Analysis, told Press Association Sport.

“One of the things cricket has suffered from in the past is that when the Ashes was placed behind a pay-wall it really impacted audiences and then that had a long-term knock-on impact on grassroots cricket.

“We also see that more generally in sport there’s a relationship between interest from young consumers and sports being made available only on pay TV.

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“In other words, if you stick something behind a pay-wall you struggle to engage the younger age brackets and that’s potentially a long-term threat, not just for cricket, but also football and other popular sports.”

Pay-TV broadcasters can make up to six times more money from exclusive sports rights than their free-to-air counterparts, who generally cannot pay as much for them, Broughton said.

“What that tends to mean is that you are trading off awareness, reach and brand-building for money and that’s the calculation they (the ECB) have got to make – what they do now versus what impact that will have in two, three, four, five, 10 years time,” he said.

Sky and other pay-TV broadcasters would not be willing to pay as much for the rights if they were no longer exclusive to them.

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A sell-out crowd and one billion TV viewers watched India beat Pakistan at Old Trafford on Sunday
A sell-out crowd and one billion TV viewers watched India beat Pakistan in a rain-affected match at Old Trafford on Sunday (Martin Rickett/PA)

“The ICC will have to work out what they are willing to potentially lose in terms of the rights value to push it free-to-air,” Broughton added. “Is it worth it for them to ensure there’s an audience longer-term?

“Personally, I’m of the view that sports organisations need to be thinking quite seriously about ensuring that sufficient content is available free-to-air.

“Finals are ideal for brand building, as you can pull in audiences who might be more reluctant to watch an earlier match or event and convert them into stronger fans.”

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