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ICC considers unbundling broadcast rights to women’s events

International Cricket Council (ICC) chief executive Manu Sawhney has said the governing body is considering unbundling broadcast rights for its major women’s events on the back of record viewing figures for the recent Women’s T20 World Cup in Australia.

The ICC said that the event, which ran from February 21 to March 8, generated 1.1 billion video views across its digital channels, with digital streaming figures for the final between Australia and India peaking at 3.1 million concurrent users on Indian streaming platform Hotstar.

The tournament was the second edition of the event to take place as a standalone competition, with the first five editions having been held alongside the men’s equivalent.

Sawhney believes there is a growing appetite for women’s cricket among fans, which can open up the possibility of separating women’s events from men’s tournaments in future rights sales processes.

He told the Reuters news agency: “All of our data points over the last three years have shown us that fans are interested in women’s cricket. There is an audience for women’s cricket out there and rights-holders along with broadcasters and brands are starting to realise that.

“There is a clear opportunity here for the sport and we are currently exploring various options to optimise value generation including the unbundling of women’s rights.”

Sawhney added: “We want to build a long-term sustainable foundation for the game and commercialisation is a central plank of that which is why we are exploring the unbundling of rights.”

According to the ICC, fans watched 1.78 billion minutes of live match action during the final of this year’s Women’s T20, which is 59 times more than the final of the 2018 event between Australia and England. This figure comprised 35 per cent of the overall viewership for the tournament.

The live average audience for the final in India was 9.02 million, according to the figures from the ICC. This is higher than all matches of the 2018 tournament and 154 per cent higher than the second-most viewed match in the competition – the opening fixture between Australia and India.

An average of 1.2 million people watched the final in Australia, becoming the most watched women’s cricket match and the sixth-most watched cricket match in the history of Australian subscription television.

Fifa, football’s global governing body, has in recent years started to sell broadcast rights to the Women’s World Cup on a standalone basis as its viewing figures (and rights fees) continue to grow. Fifa is also set to decide whether to unbundle the sponsorship rights to the Women’s World Cup from the men’s event after the 2019-22 rights cycle.

Uefa, football’s European governing body, recently unveiled plans to centralise all media rights from the group stage onwards in a revamped Women’s Champions League from the 2021-22 season onwards. It marks a change in strategy for Uefa, with only the broadcast rights to the final currently centrally marketed by the body, and clubs holding responsibility for the sale of rights to their home leg in all earlier knockout rounds.