Australian cricket fans were left fuming on Tuesday night, as many struggled to find a way to watch the Bangladesh vs Australia T20 series opener in Dhaka.
In chaotic scenes online, many — including Australian captain Aaron Finch himself — were unable to watch the national team in action after no Australian broadcaster secured the series rights.
“Can’t find it anywhere…I thought it was meant to be via YouTube in Australia,” Finch tweeted.
Prior to the first ball, reports suggested the match would be available on YouTube via the RabbitholeBD Sports channel.
However once the match began, it became apparent the coverage was geo-blocked in Australia.
Cricket.com.au has since reported that the rights holders (a marketing agency representing the Bangladesh Cricket Board) “have instructed the RabbitholeBD channel…to black out the Australian market”.
To confuse matters further, cricket journalist Adam Collins said he was told “in no uncertain terms by the decision-maker in Bangladesh that this definitely would NOT be streamed on YouTube in Australia”.
Which, he said, made it “all the more puzzling why there were reports saying it’d be free on YouTube”.
Despite the messy situation, most fans eventually found a stream of the T20 clash, either via a VPN (a ‘virtual private network’ that can hide a users’ location), betting agencies (although users must have deposited money into an account) or illegal online streaming sites.
And while those determined enough could watch their team in action, the situation is an embarrassing one for Australian cricket.
It was the first time in 27 years that the Australian men’s team has played a series not broadcast back home via free-to-air or pay television.
That was for Australia’s tour of Pakistan in 1994.
At the heart of the issue is the fact Fox Cricket, Australia’s self-styled ‘home of cricket’, did not secure the series rights.
— Daniel Brettig (@danbrettig) August 4, 2021
A Foxtel Group spokesperson did not answer questions put by The Roar as to why a deal had not been secured.
One can only assume that negotiations between Foxtel and marketing agency BanTech, working on behalf of the Bangladesh Cricket Board, had fallen over, with neither side willing to budge on their valuation of the series.
“The Foxtel Group does not have the rights to broadcast the Bangladesh T20 series,” the spokesperson said on Wednesday morning.
“Fox Cricket was pleased to bring viewers the recent tour of the West Indies, and we can’t wait to bring them the ICC T20 World Cup starting in October as we head towards The Ashes in Australia this summer.”
Perhaps worryingly for Australian cricket fans, the situation may not be a one-off for lower-profile series abroad.
Prior to this week, it was not uncommon for Foxtel to leave overseas broadcast negotiations to the last minute.
Less than a month ago, it secured the rights to broadcast the West Indies vs Australia T20 and ODI series mere days before the opener.
However this time, worryingly, the pay-tv provider has been unable, or unwilling, to reach a deal.
While it’s difficult to speculate without having an ear to the negotiating table, what’s clear is that these situations should simply not occur in a proud cricketing nation like Australia.
In the UK, for instance, Sky Cricket often secures broadcast rights for England men’s team overseas tours well in advance.
There is rarely, if ever, a ‘will they/won’t they’ situation where fans are left questioning whether they’ll be able to watch their team.
With Game 2 of the series taking place tonight, it’s unclear whether Cricket Australia may step in and ensure fans can watch the remaining four matches without using ‘other’ methods.