Live international cricket is set to return to free-to-air television as part of the England and Wales Cricket Board’s new proposed broadcast deal from 2020, according to tender documents leaked to The Times.
A report in the newspaper on Wednesday morning provided remarkable detail contained in seven rights packages which it reveals have been sent to all leading broadcasters.
Package 3, exclusively for free-to-air television, contains two men’s Twenty20 international matches per season, one women’s Twenty20 and 10 – rather than the previously-suggested eight – fixtures in the ECB’s new city-based Twenty20 tournament, and up to eight in the women’s Super League.
The ECB had already broadly indicated a timeline for decisions to be made and an announcement on the new broadcast and streaming deals by this mid-summer.
But the Times report spells out a much more specific timeline for bids to be received and considered – including a one-hour window for submissions from broadcasters on the morning of June 28 2017 and then notification of an agreement on all packages over the following two days.
Live international cricket has not been broadcast in this country since Channel 4 covered the bulk of England’s famous 2005 Ashes victory – since when Sky has held all rights, including most recently in a £75million-a-year deal which is about to be superseded.
Sky can once again be expected to be a leading player alongside BT Sport for the international package, which the document stipulates will be one of three available for bids from all pay-per-view and free-to-air broadcasters. The other two are a package dedicated solely to new Twenty20 competitions and a range of highlights programmes.
Aside from the live coverage being offered to free-to-air broadcasters, the same companies are also invited to bid for all international highlights.
The BBC, which has not shown live international cricket since the last millennium but has since retained a significant broadcast presence through its Test Match Special radio coverage, is likely to find itself competing with rival bids from Channel 4, Channel 5, ITV and American cable company Discovery – through its free-to-air Quest channel.
The ECB, who confirmed in a statement last week that the bid process for the new deals to run from 2020 to the end of 2024 was under way and that non-disclosure agreements were stipulated to all parties, has declined to comment on the leaking of the documents or their contents.