I wrote this blog but by the time I went to publish it, Charles Sale had revised the fee to £80million over five years – I thought I’d leave in the original figure in the blog post just to show how much Charles Sale changed his report after publication. My fury is not quelled by the amount being a lot less but the money certainly isn’t completely insane. If indeed Sky walked away from the rights at that figure then fuck me did they overspend for the EPL and have dropped a right bollock on this one.
I was going to have a bath. Well I was thinking about it anyway. A way to soothe my aching limbs on a Sunday evening but thought I’d watch the end of the baseball first. My phone beeps, I wander over to it and I see a tweet with a link, so I walk over to my PC to investigate and the story is how BT Sport have reportedly won the rights to show all matches from Cricket Australia in a five-year deal worth – now don’t fall over or faint here – £70million per year. That is £350million over the next five years.
Now whilst this deal is for 32 test matches, for us in reality it is all about five, the next Ashes series down under. For the past two plus decades we’ve had all live England Test matches overseas on Sky Sports and whilst some of those matches haven’t been a full Sky Sports production, they have all had some of the Sky guys in the commentary box.
The thing is, Sky’s cricket coverage is the best coverage of any sport in the UK. I can’t really write that as fact but is merely my opinion – and indeed that of many avid sport watchers. The mix of voices in the commentary box is first rate. I have written about it before in a blog entitled, Why mess with nigh on perfection? and I very much stick by what I wrote in that blog post.
The joy of the Sky box isn’t just in the commentary and the presenting but also the chats during rain delays and the like. The level of voice they have is just second to none. From Michael Atherton to Nasser Hussein to Bumble to Lord Gower to Sir Ian Botham and of course to Michael Holding. Michael Holding is quite simply one of those people you wish you could just sit down with in a pub for a drink and a chat because he is quite amazing and Michael Atherton is the next Richie Benaud, he is that good. They get the right voices from overseas (both Ian Smith and Ricky Ponting just knocked it out of the ball park this summer) and to be frank, there is no way on Earth BT could even get close to the quality of coverage Sky do and do you know why we know this?
Because they cover football these days and there is no-one out there saying they want to see more Jake Humphrey presenting or need to listen to more Michael Owen butcher another co-commentary. Sky again outshine BT in football coverage and it is no surprise, they have been the best for a number of years so they know what they are doing. Yes sometimes a change can revolutionise a sports coverage (see Cricket, BBC to Channel Four – another thing I wrote about) but at best all this deal will do is mean for one tour BT will have to put together a second rate team to cover these matches as al the top dogs are signed up to Sky and indeed will stay with Sky considering all the other matches bar one England series are still with the corporation. Although it could mean that Geoffrey Boycott could return to live TV commentary but that is a long ways away.
As you can tell I’m not happy but it isn’t just the fact that BT will be showing the Ashes in 2017/2018 but look at the money they are paying. I have a friend who always says, ‘well its not my money so who cares?’ but as customers we should care. £70million a year (again if the report is true – it is Charles Sale) is just insane. Flat out insane for what they would be getting. The previous deal was for £50million over four years and this is £350million over five years. Cricket rights have not gone up that much and yes whilst I agree The Big Bash is worth a few quid, it is paltry compared to the Test matches and if BT really think that the value of these rights have gone up by 600% in four years well then, those that said Sky overpaid for EPL rights must be looking at BT and thinking there was an ink issue with the fax offer sheet.
The loser in all of this is firstly the cricket fan, a) they’ll lose the best coverage of the sport for five extremely important Test matches and b) will have to shell out yet another subscription fee to watch cricket but there is also c) the average BT customer who will likely have these exorbitant rights fees passed on to them with rises in their subscription costs, even if they don’t want to watch cricket.
We’ll see if this story is true but if it is, the next Ashes series might just be the host broadcaster coverage (and I don’t hate Channel Nine’s coverage but lets be honest, it is not what it once was with the passing of Greig, Benaud and the retirement of Lawry) but they aren’t Sky and of course if BT put together their own list of broadcasters then expect the 2017/2018 Ashes series to have commentary from the likes of Matthew Hoggard, Darren Gough and who knows, maybe they can get more value out of Michael Owen and put him in for a few stints just to brighten all our nights and early mornings in three winters’ time.
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