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Wednesday, December 13, 2006

What does sale of international TV broadcast rights mean?

The announcement that the ICC has awarded international cricket TV broadcast rights to 18 tournaments spanning 2007 to 2015 hasn't attracted a lot of comment in Australia. Perhaps it should have, given (1) the importance of TV coverage to the health of the game, (2) the amount of money involved ($US 1 - 1.1 billion), and (3) the growth of other forms of coverage of matches, such as the online "live commentary" provided by Cricinfo and others.

True, the agreement doesn't cover test cricket, but it does cover the major one day international events including the World Cup and the Champions Trophy.

Gideon Haigh in his Cricinfo blog goes behind the hyperbole about "ploughing back" profits and developing cricket on a "much wider front" and asks some very pertinent questions:

[H]ow much should junior countries be benefiting anyway when only India, Australia and England among the Test nations operate profitably? What kind of development? Where? By whom? What about the players? The umpires? The administrators? And how accountable and equitable are those who distribute and spend the money that the game raises? After all, what do we have to show for the developing we’re already meant to have done?

The comments, many of which disagree with his proposition, are also worth reading.

Another comment, by Martin Tormey in today's Crikey (subscription only) suggests that the agreement will preclude bodies like Cricinfo and otehr media organisations from providing online "live coverage". With the decline of radio coverage of many matches, online coverage is becoming a feasible alternative for cricket followers who can't be glued to a TV (or their mobile phone) for hours at a time to watch play. If this is to stop or to have its wings clipped so that, for example, only occasional rather than ball by ball or over by over, updates are permitted this will surely shut out a significant potential audience for the game.
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