On the 13th of April 2018, only 16 days after the ball tampering embarrassment that shook the Cricket world, the then Cricket Australia CEO James Sutherland confirmed a $1.182-billion deal.
The deal was for both Foxtel and Channel Seven to broadcast international cricket and the KFC Big Bash games until the conclusion of the 2024 season.
However, one of the significant points of contention in the arrangement was that One Day international cricket and T20 International cricket was not going to air on free-to-air television and instead would air on pay TV provider Foxtel.
ODI cricket and T20 international cricket are on the anti siphoning list in Australia, which is an Australian government regulation is designed to prevent the likes of Foxtel from buying full and exclusive rights to televise sport that is of significance to the nation.
Channel Ten, when bidding for the rights in 2018, believed it could broadcast all cricket on free-to-air tv which included the ODIs, T20I’s and Big Bash League matches.
Cricket has been known as a sport that is unwilling to move with the times, such was the reluctance for India to venture into the new aged world which was T20 all those years ago.
Some could argue Cricket Australia was the most unwilling of them all to move with the times as the Big Bash League was created four years following to the IPL’s inception. But Channel Ten’s eye for the ever-changing attention span of 21st century society panned the new focus of Cricket Australia.
Channel Ten signed a $100-million, five-year deal for the Big Bash League broadcast rights – which in hindsight was the greatest broadcast deal in history.
But Channel Ten changed the game, with full crowds every night, fireworks blowing out of everyone’s lounge chair, sponsorship increases, along with players and commentators alike being conformed as characters of the game – just like when Ricky Ponting sung Mark Waugh’s Barmy Army tune in front of one million people. Wasn’t that enthralling tv?
But all of this commotion surrounding the Big Bash, it wouldn’t nearly be as much if it wasn’t for Foxtel. If it wasn’t for Foxtel there wouldn’t be the Big Bash as we know it.
Maybe we would still be in a state-driven T20 format where Queensland would play against South Australia instead of the Heat playing against the Strikers.
The same can be said about Spidercam, zing bails and player mics. They were all introduced during the primitive Big Bash seasons. But while Foxtel created the revolution, the Channel 10 reign was unmatched. It brought bigger crowds and exposed the expanded audience of free-to-air tv to cricket.
What can be said is nothing has changed crowd-wise since those primitive days of the Big Bash in seasons 1 and 2. Crowds are considerably below attendances set in previous seasons, baring in mind the Covid restrictions on crowds.
According the Sydney Morning Herald the BBL had an average crowd attendance of 17,921, which is reported to be 40 per cent less than 2016-17 when all games where exclusive to free-to-air tv.
But is the crowd attendance drop because of the broadcasting arrangement or is it because of the lack of relevance the Big Bash holds to the everyday Australian cricket lover. In the 2020 season, the international players include Keemo Paul, Benny Howell and Danny Briggs.
With all due respect to these cricketers who spent 14 days in quarantine to play in the competition, these blokes aren’t necessarily ticking the turnstiles over.
Is the Big Bash irrelevant or are the ODIs and T20Is irrelevant?