ECB weighs up broadcast options for new T20 league

The England and Wales Cricket Board has held talks with all major terrestrial and subscription broadcasters, along with new media platforms such as Facebook and Twitter, as it seeks to draw up a rights strategy for its new Twenty20 tournament.

The ECB yesterday (Monday) unveiled the details behind its new domestic competition as it prepares to today drive through a major amendment to its constitution that will allow it to proceed with forming the tournament.

The ECB yesterday presented a detailed overview of current proposals around a new T20 competition to its 41 members. If agreed, the new tournament would start in summer 2020 and would sit alongside the existing T20 Blast event.

Key elements of the proposed new competition include eight new teams, as opposed to 18 counties, playing 36 games over a 38-day summer window with four home games per team. The ECB is pledging that all games will be televised with “significant” free-to-air exposure, with a reported target of eight games to be broadcast in this manner.

UK newspaper The Guardian said the ECB has held talks over the tournament with public-service broadcaster the BBC and commercial broadcasters ITV, Channel 4 and Channel 5, as well as pay-television broadcasters Sky, BT Sport and Eurosport.

Rights for the tournament are reportedly set to be sold in the early part of the summer once ECB constitutional amendments are approved to allow a domestic competition without all 18 counties.

The new T20 competition is set to be a major factor in the talks with broadcasters for a new deal to run from 2020. In January 2015, pay-television broadcaster Sky agreed a two-year extension, from 2018 to 2019, to its partnership with the ECB, covering exclusive live rights to England’s home fixtures, county matches, women's and age-grade cricket.

With cricket having been without significant live free-to-air exposure in the UK for over a decade, changing this is a key goal of the new tournament.

ECB chief executive Tom Harrison said, according to The Guardian: “In an ideal world, I’d like to maximise revenue and reach. I would love to have as much cricket as we could (on free-to-air television).

“The reality is we are a pay-TV business and at the moment there aren’t too many alternatives. But we have to be smart about how we package and work with all our commercial partners to make sure we are getting that balance right between reach and revenue.

“We’ve got a great opportunity. We have competition in the market place and a desire from free-to-air to partner with us on new T20. The reason for that is because they are excited about what we are presenting to them, excited about where we are taking the game. We’re in a very strong place.”

Harrison is also said to have spent time in the US, discussing marketing and streaming options with Facebook and Twitter executives, along with meeting officials at Major League Baseball, basketball’s NBA and American football’s NFL.