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Counties seeking terrestrial presence from ECB rights deal

The England & Wales Cricket Board’s member counties are applying pressure on the governing body to ensure domestic cricket appears on terrestrial television in the UK when the current rights deal with pay-television broadcaster BSkyB is renegotiated.

The Telegraph newspaper said the ECB’s new chief executive, Tom Harrison, and chairman Giles Clarke, are facing increasing calls from the counties to secure at least a highlights package from the T20 Blast Twenty20 competition to appear on terrestrial television. It would be the first time county cricket has been shown on free-to-air television in the UK for a decade.

The ECB’s current deal with Sky, worth an estimated £280m (€353.4m/$451.7m), was signed in 2012 and covers the period from 2013-2017 with an option for a further two years. The Telegraph said this option has to be signed by the end of this year, adding that talks with Sky are likely to include replacing the whole existing contract with a new deal to run until possibly 2022 covering the International Cricket Council’s recently agreed Future Tours Programme. The FTP sets out the international calendar for cricket.

The counties are said to be seeking a terrestrial platform in a bid to develop a new audience for the domestic game and address falling match attendances.

“The counties put a lot of pressure on the ECB and Sky to get highlights package last summer on terrestrial television but they failed to deliver,” one county source told the Telegraph. “Now the attitude from the counties to the ECB is ‘do not get this one wrong’ because at the moment there is little brand value in being a county.

“We know Sky puts millions of pounds into cricket and does a great job but if nobody is sat in the stadia to watch the games and with participation in cricket falling then what is the point? We can’t wait until 2019 for this to be sorted.”