England and Wales Cricket Board chairman Colin Graves has said the governing body is seeking to commence talks with broadcasters at the end of the year to agree a rights deal that will guarantee the sport’s survival in the country for the next “10 to 15 years”.
UK newspaper The Telegraph said Graves’s executive team at the ECB are working with an external company on four or five options for the domestic game, primarily a new Twenty20 competition that will be the basis of 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.
The ECB will present its plans to the counties in September, with Graves (pictured) stating that once an agreement is reached on a new competition to replace the current T20 Blast a broadcast deal can be signed with some content to be shown on free-to-air television.
Graves said: “This decision will make sure the game is in a good place for the next 10-15 years. We want to be presenting to counties at the end of this season what the options are on the table. Then we can go to broadcasters and ask them to put some value on it. We are looking at doing that late this year.
“It is not just about money. Yes, money is important but it is about everything: audience, participation, reach and entertainment. I have said all way down the line I believe in 18 counties. I don’t want to get rid of any but we have to make the competitions more meaningful. It is all about what the customer wants. If they want more Twenty20 then we should give them it. If we want to get new audiences we have to do something different.”
Meanwhile, Graves has said live Test cricket will remain on pay-television for the foreseeable future, with the sport having been covered in this fashion in the UK since 2005. “We'd like to see some live cricket on terrestrial television, but Test cricket will not be on terrestrial television,” he added to public-service broadcaster the BBC.
“The younger generation do not watch terrestrial television, they use social media. We have to take that into account. It will be a mix-and-match situation for us to come out with the right formula.”
Meanwhile, Graves has said the ECB is keen to host a day-night Test match. Australia and New Zealand made history last year when they faced off in the inaugural day-night Test at the Adelaide Oval from November 27 to December 1.
The match was the first in cricket’s longest form to take place partially under floodlights and day-night Tests have been designed as a means to reinvigorate a format that has come under pressure from the competing attractions of one-day internationals and Twenty20 games.
The Board of Control for Cricket in India last month signalled its interest in staging day-night games and Graves added: “You can't turn your back on it, it will happen. We just have to decide when it is going to happen. We're doing a lot of work on it and we'd love to see day-night cricket.”