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Sky maintains hold on ECB rights as BBC returns to live cricket

UK pay-television broadcaster Sky has retained the majority of its rights with the England & Wales Cricket Board, as public-service broadcaster the BBC returned as a live broadcaster of the sport under new deals that will be worth £1.1bn (€1.25bn/$1.4bn) in total.

The ECB today (Friday) announced the award of media rights for all of its domestic first class county and international matches, played at home, for the five-year period spanning 2020 to 2024.

Incumbent broadcast partner Sky is believed to have fought off strong competition from rival BT Sport for the pay-television rights. It has secured live, highlights and clips rights to England Test matches, one-day internationals, Twenty20 games and England women’s internationals.

Sky has also secured rights to the new domestic T20 competition that is set to launch in 2020, along with the County Championship, T20 Blast, One-Day Cup and the women’s T20 tournament.                                             

The BBC’s agreement means live cricket returns to terrestrial television in the UK for the first time since commercial broadcaster Channel 4 aired coverage in 2005. The BBC last showed live cricket in 1999 and will take over the international highlights package currently held by commercial broadcaster Channel 5.

The BBC will show two live men’s international T20 games per season and one live women’s T20. The BBC will also show 10 live games from the new domestic T20 tournament when it launches, including the final, along with eight live games from the women’s competition.

The contract also encompasses clips rights to international and domestic cricket. Commenting on the new deals, ECB chief executive Tom Harrison said: “Together, these new deals will deliver the partnership, distribution and investment that will fuel the future of our game, driving recreational, professional and international cricket for years to come.

“Sky Sports have offered a true partnership – more than a broadcast deal – with their shared vision for cricket. Their innovation and production standards are widely acclaimed. Here, they further increase their live commitment and have added bold ideas to drive engagement and to help to get a bat and ball in more hands.

“BBC are valuable long-term partners, bringing cricket to listeners, viewers and a new digital audience. We are delighted they will go to another level with live coverage of international and domestic T20 – men’s and women’s – alongside prime-time highlights shows and a commitment to taking the game to even wider audiences.”

“Right through this process we’ve been excited to witness a fresh approach to the game and what it offers. This has transformed our relationships and our media deals. I want to thank everyone who has talked with us, shown their enthusiasm and added to our vision for the future.”

An Invitation to Tender was distributed to all interested parties on May 12. The deadline for submission of bids was at 10am GMT on June 28. 

The ECB currently receives £75m annually from Sky for exclusive coverage of all live cricket in England. In January 2015 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.