For all intents and purposes, cricket is small sport. It is small in the sense of the power belonging to a select few. It is small in terms of its reluctance to set out a clear plan to allow other nations to participate at “elite level”. Quite often, cricket is also small in its thinking.
A new rights deal has just been announced with Star Sports having signed a new TV rights deal with the ICC for all 18 ICC tournaments between 2015 and 2023. That’s all good and well and planning ahead in cricket is only natural, especially for broadcasters. From a business perspective, these things need to be planned ahead for broadcasters as they make their money by selling advertising space and they need to safeguard their potential income. There is nothing wrong with that kind of thinking.
So far, so good. But what about the future of the sport and what about ensuring it grows and expands across the globe? You would think that it would have learned its lesson by now. These contracts tend to be inflexible and that became quite clear when the plans for a Test championship were forced to be abandoned due to the lukewarm welcoming from broadcasters. They wanted a Champions Trophy instead. That’s what was in the contract and that’s what needed to happen.
Because broadcasting rights constitute such a massive money spinner for the ICC, they often have no choice but to buckle to their demands. This is where the problem comes in. The ICC have, yet again, failed to find a way to become self-sufficient or, at least, set the foundation to allow it to do so in near future.
We’re not talking about flying cars and being teleported to matches here; instead, the approach should be far simpler. Think about this way, over a decade ago, T20 didn’t even exist and women’s cricket wasn’t even part of the ICC yet. How much and how quickly have things changed in the last 10 years and how much and how quickly will thing change in the next ten?
Cricket needs to start taking a modern-day approach in how it spreads its gospel. With the rise and rise of smartphones, internet penetration and mobile data getting cheaper, it’s only a matter of time before we start watching sport in a completely different way. In South Africa, you can already watch TV on a mobile device that you can carry around with you and, in England, you can watch it all on your phone. All of these require users to have a subscription to a pay channel, but it can’t be too long before the smartphone starts taking over as one of our main ports of TV watching.
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