Cricket World Cup organisers in talks with Sky over free-to-air final
The International Cricket Council has said it is “hopeful” that agreement can be reached with UK pay-television operator Sky for the final of the Men’s Cricket World Cup to be shown live on a free-to-air basis.
Sky holds exclusive domestic live rights in a multi-events deal with the ICC running to 2023, but, given that this year’s tournament is taking place in England and Wales and there is a strong possibility that pre-tournament favourites England will make the final, there have been calls for wider access to the match, which takes place at Lord’s in London on 14 July.
It was reported last week that Sky was considering showing the final on a free-to-air platform, and, in an interview with BBC Radio Five live yesterday, ICC chief executive David Richardson said: “I know that the ECB [England and Wales Cricket Board] and the local organising committee are working with the Sky people to try to maximise the reach for the match.”
He added: “We are hopeful that something can be arranged in that regard.”
Possible options include televising the match on the Sky One and Sky Sports Mix channels, which do not require a premium subscription, or offering a free day pass to Now TV, Sky's pay-as-you-go OTT service.
Rival pay-TV operator BT Sport showed last month's Uefa Champions League and Europa League soccer finals for free in the UK on its YouTube channel, although that was a condition of its contract with Uefa given that both matches involved English clubs.
The ICC and the ECB will be eager for the largest possible UK audience for the Cricket World Cup final especially as the event coincides with the Formula 1 British Grand Prix and the men’s singles final at tennis’ Wimbledon Championships, both of which will be shown live on free-to-air television.
The cricket showpiece has not been televised live on a similar basis since 1999, the last time England hosted the event.
The BBC, the UK's public-service broadcaster, has been providing 2019 World Cup match clips online, to accompany its live radio coverage of the event, while there are daily highlights on commercial TV network Channel 4 through a sub-licensing agreement with Sky and the ICC's global broadcast partner Star India.
Channel 4 has come in for criticism for scheduling the programmes late at night when they are unlikely to attract large audiences, but has said that it plans to broadcast England highlights “as early as possible” in the schedule and for the latter stages of the tournament “will look to air more matches in an earlier slot," albeit they cannot go out within three hours of the end of play.
Highlights of England's defeat of the West Indies last Friday went on air at 11pm UK time, while yesterday's highly-anticipated clash between India and Pakistan was shown at 10.30pm.
It was claimed beforehand that the match between the Asian rivals was likely to have a global audience of around one billion.
Meanwhile, the Pakistan Cricket Board has submitted a complaint to the ICC over a World Cup television commercial from Star Sports.
The PCB is said to have found the advertisement, in which an Indian fan refers to himself as a Pakistan fan’s ‘baap’ (father), as "objectionable."
The context was India being unbeaten in six previous World Cup games against Pakistan, and the ICC has spoken to Star about the matter, according to Indian reports.
India won yesterday’s rain-shortened game at Old Trafford in Manchester by 89 runs, and now lie third in the 10-team table.
The top four qualify for the semi-finals, with the other places presently filled by holders Australia, New Zealand and England.