Television rights. The debate continues. Money or exposure. Visibility instead of viability? It’s a distance from the days BBC ruled the roost. You knew where you stood, you knew the players. But change was coming…
It was an October day in 1998, I think. October 17. Location…Ataturk Airport, Istanbul. I was boarding the Saturday morning 9am flight to London, having forced my boss to get up early so that I could get back to London in time for Millwall v Fulham (we lost 1-0, last minute goal, the ref was a bastard). So what, Dmitri? Stop rambling…
I picked up one of the daily papers on the flight and saw the news.
“BBC to lose cricket contract to Channel 4. Shock as live coverage moves to commercial channel.”
This was a seismic moment in TV coverage. BBC had held the rights since I was a child, and now, after all those years, it was moving to a commercial channel? How could they? I do remember the late Trevor Bailey getting very irate about it (he said something along the lines of people having no sense of history and being obsessed by money). There was a sense that the BBC had got very lazy, but what was to become of Richie Benaud?
Now a lot of old bollocks has been spoken about BBC coverage. About it being interrupted by the racing, or by kids programmes, or on Saturdays by every other sport. But this is of course pre-digital television for the vast majority, and the digital platforms then were in their evolutionary stage. Sky might have had three sports channels at the time, and were struggling to fill them! There wasn’t even a thought that cricket would follow football and rugby league by handing over their bread and butter exclusively live to the pay TV market.
Sky got their toe in the water with their one exclusive test per year. This would normally be the non-Lord’s test played by the first tourists of the summer. It wasn’t a great game to get, but Sky, as is their wont, went full in and did their usual high-standard production. As we know, when the contracts for the post-2005 cricket were being awarded, Sky Sports won the bid and got the whole of the sport exclusively live in this country.
If Giles Clarke was the man to which the focus of the ire was focused post-2005, it seems the man that Trevor Bailey had in his cross-hairs was Lord McLaurin. Remember also that test matches were part of the “Crown Jewlels” of sporting rights that had to be on terrestrial TV and that the ECB, or whatever it might have been called then, were having severe constraints placed on their revenue by being forced to, in effect, deal with one partner. But McLaurin was vocal when the Sky exclusive deal was announced. Even he wasn’t thinking that far ahead.
Fast forward to now, and the one partner is Sky. We have no idea if BT Sport bid for the last round (might have been too soon), but one effect of their arrival on the sporting scene of BT was for Sky to exercise their two year option in the 2013 deal very quickly. Sky play an effective long game as the key sports rights holders in the UK, and their thinking may well be that come the new contract discussions, their inside track will be a key selling point to the ECB, and that BT Sport will really be encountering choppy waters. They’ve seen off Setanta and ESPN in the UK, and while BT have deep pockets, they might well see them off to.
The press are remarkably Sky-friendly too. Note how BT Sport, trying to bust its way into a major industry, are criticised by papers like the Daily Mail for the lack of audience for Champions League matches. What Charlie Sale and his kith and kin should be looking at is how an audience of millions for the 2005 Ashes, an outlier, but also an indication of how the sport can grip the nation, has turned into a fraction of that despite the quality production values and dedication to international cricket that Sky has shown. For Champions League football, read Sky Sports and cricket. But Sky always gets a free pass.
Looking back to the announcement in 2004, the thing that strikes me is that English cricket sold wholesale access for a 10% rise. The contract was for £220m for four years – so my maths says that is £55m per year. Even then, the ECB’s spin was appalling….
“We understand that the decision to place all live cricket coverage on satellite and cable television is an emotive issue for some people,” he continued.
“We have made an agreement that will offer the highlights package to a peaktime audience.
“Five will broadcast highlights from 7.15-8.00pm, a time which is the most popular slot for TV viewing for children and a time when an average of 21m people watch television.”
“Emotive issue for some people”. How charming. It’s sneering at you….”You get over yourself if you actually care about the long-term visibility of the sport, and if you were a non-Sky consumer, the fact you would be paying a huge amount to get to watch it”.
Stop those emotions, you people… Those “some people” getting emotive were key consumers of your sport, and yet the insults flew. Now, in hindsight, we recognise that contempt for the supporters. “Watch it on Channel 5” is the equivalent of saying “let them eat cake”. Don’t think I’ve ever watched those highlights, actually. Are they any good?
Alec Stewart sounded a warning at the time…
Former England captain Alec Stewart, speaking on Tuesday, said: “Young girls and boys should be able to see cricket without having to pay for it.
“The ECB have to look at the whole picture. They may be getting a big cheque but, long-term, English cricket will suffer.”
But it isn’t, is it? We were world number 1 test nation in 2011-12, we haven’t lost an Ashes at home. Our ODI cricket was always crap, and T20 was just a flicker at this point. Collier’s view at the time was that take the money now, and see where we go…
“The bids we accepted allow us to invest even more in the development of the England team and grass roots cricket.
“Other proposals included live coverage of some international cricket on terrestrial TV but, if accepted, they would have resulted in a significant financial shortfall for the game and it was decided that this was not in the best interest of the sport,” explained Morgan.
“This is a very good deal for cricket as it guarantees wide accessibility to watch or listen to the action and secures the future development of the game from playground to Test arena.”
We can fertilise the lawn with this.
The suspicion is that the money received from Sky didn’t filter to the grass roots as we see them. The club game is on its arse. My club was showing distress signals in 2005, with us all getting old at the same time, a couple of youngsters coming through but not prepared to commit every weekend, and clubs all around our area merging or folding. I didn’t see any of this investment come down to us. And the recreational game is important. It hands down the love of the game to people like me. I loved my club cricket. If I had kids I would have taken them with me, got them into the game, and hoped they’d be a lot better than me. At worst they’d be able to watch the sport, perhaps pay the ticket money and help fund it that way. Now my nephew will not see it on the TV, will not encounter the game in any way, and if was interested, it’s a struggle to find a way in. He’s very young, but I’d picked up a cricket bat at that age.
The money has funded better facilities and rewards for the top players. Of that there is no doubt. I’m not sure how the wages of county cricketers were affected, and I’m not about to go on a raid on Google to find out how they might have, but when I was talking with a fellow member of Surrey a few years back, the salaries I was hearing were astounding. Over £100k for a county player while the attendance at the fixtures wouldn’t cover the costs (because there was more than one of those paid players on the staff). So I’m assuming the funds from the Sky contract paid for that (and thus the counties supported the moves to exclusivity). There really didn’t appear to be much long-term about it. It was to trouser more cash to pay everyone involved in the game. Once hooked on the drug of money, it’s pretty tough to get off. Anyone want a precedent in history for this, look at what happened to football below the Premier League when ON Digital went bust. Ask our current Premier League champions what happened to them?
A clue in the raising of the wages of cricketers in the last few years can be gleaned, very roughly, from the cost of sales/ other operating expenses part of the ECB accounts. In 2006, cost of sales was £6.2m and operating expenses were £64.7m. In 2014 those numbers increased to £18.9m cost of sales and £128m operating expenses. Now, this period covers the global economic downturn and the lack of pay rises for many people out there. I can’t delve deeper into those figures because the accounts are pretty opaque, but there is always a spike in years with the Indians touring England (2011 and 2014 in particular) but the trend is up across the piece. There seems little doubt that the players share of the pot has increased. As with football, your subs fund their wages. It’s little wonder that they took the largest pot. Wouldn’t you? You’d really turn down large sums of cash for the future of the game? Bet you wouldn’t.
Now, don’t get me started on Giles Clarke and his vision for the sport. The vision was to increase salaries. The vision was to get money for counties to pay more salaries and perhaps make them sustainable. The counties are the lifeblood of players coming through the ranks as well as, in a number of cases, the parasites sucking the coffers dry. Where you stand on that is your own choice, your own evaluation. I don’t know enough about how this works, and I’m damn well sure we’re not told enough either.
So you have a number of important issues to consider. If you do offer cricket “free-to-air” (and as AB points out, correctly, it isn’t. You still pay a licence fee) then Sky may well drop the value of their bid based on their exclusivity premium. The BT Sport angle is interesting, but we are still a year away from the bidding and while they’ve snatched the overseas Ashes from Sky, it’s probably not going to be followed up by a bid for home international cricket, which is hardly value for money. BT still come across as cheap and cheerful. If I were them I would not be bidding the current levels that Sky do.
If Sky bid against themselves, then why up the ante too much?. Here’s where Harrison has to earn his corn. Mr TV Rights has to persuade a sole bidder that someone else is interested, while also trying to hawk a T20 match or ten to a free-to-air channel (so far unknown) for a competition that hasn’t been created yet (a franchise one) while keeping the players in the manner to which they have become accustomed, and justify what looks like his £300k plus salary. Good luck Tom.
Commentators protest that the lack of free to air access has meant stars like Joe Root don’t get the recognition they deserve. Great. No argument there. So what are you thinking is the solution? All I’ve seen is a franchise competition with a few games of T20 cricket on free-to-air. Is that really going to work? I’d say the most famous cricketer who has played in England this decade remains Kevin Pietersen. I’d wager Andrew Flintoff gets recognised more than Joe Root. You can’t have it both ways. You can’t secrete a sport on pay per view, that isn’t football, and then expect it to grow. It has to have terrestrial presence (for want of a better word) but that comes at a cost. A cost this short-sighted generation of administration will not countenance. Joe Root may not get a SPOTY nomination but he’s getting double the salary he would have done without Sky money. Which would you prefer?
Comparisons with other sports are not helpful. AB and I have been having a discussion regarding baseball. One would think it’s a good thing to compare with, but is it really? The focus on cricket for revenue purposes is international fixtures. They get all the good players, they get the crowds, they get the interest. MLB doesn’t have that. The World Baseball Classic isn’t taken seriously in the US. The turnover figures do not compare. AB cited $9bn for a season. A team plays 81 home games, minimum, will have a local TV station rights award (some even own those channels and coin all the revenues for themselves) for the vast majority of all their games, and there is some national coverage on Fox (on Saturdays) and ESPN (a couple of nights in the week and Sunday Night Baseball). A Superstation (TBS) which is available on cable packages throughout the US also has a live game on Sunday afternoons. Then you have the play-offs (postseason) and the World Series. The ballparks vary in size, with some over 50000 in capacity. Revenue from executive boxes and prime location seats are enormous. For a county membership of £150, I’d be hard pressed to sit behind home plate in many ballparks, and certainly the top teams, for one game! Attendances are not even comparable with our international fixtures! Sure, a lot of games don’t get a lot in, but at home to the Red Sox, the Yankees et al on a Friday night? Good luck! I went to see Boston play Pittsburgh a few years ago in PNC Park. It was their record attendance at the time. Two middling teams on a Sunday afternoon.
Cricket in England isn’t in baseball’s league. But the principles are. The sport is cared for like cricket – an anachronism in a fast moving world. It needs the older generation to nurture it for the young. There are concerns that the black community, the US black community, is decreasing in its representation. The World Series doesn’t have the buzz it used to. It does make sure its stars are known. It does show them on major networks, accessible by very many people. It doesn’t just resort to a Twitter feed or a silly #propercricket hashtag. It has a savvy social media platform. It has a wonderful website allowing you to stream nearly every game. We have a couple of counties with fixed cameras showing some action and Sky/ECB start whingeing that it’s scaring the horses. What the serious fuck is going on here? Do they want to stop any innovation?
In my opinion Sky Sports cricket coverage is brilliant from a production perspective and borderline awful on a commentary one. Atherton is fine, but I’m not as high on him as many. Hussain has gone to pot. Lloyd is the court jester, but that act is wearing on me. Shane Warne needs to do one. Michael Holding has been there too long, and I’m not too sure he should be sticking around long, and then there is Ian Botham. You know what I think. Gower as link man is a travesty – Ian Ward should be suing for some sort of age discrimination on grounds of relative youth. Nick Knight in the wings fills no-one with pleasure. This isn’t a national treasure needing saving. It’s sporting coverage needing some bloody new faces. Good ones. Robert Key. Mark Butcher.
But none of that really matters. What matters is growing the sport the decision to take the money and cut the exposure damaged. Perhaps permanently. I don’t see any solution. Who is going to watch a franchise T20 competition if there are many who don’t know the players? Who is going to bid for this for decent sums of money? How will they cope with Sky’s need for exclusivity? Will they even get the same money next time around?
Loads of questions, nearly 3000 words, and no answers. That’s blogging.
Update – As if on cue, check out this load of old absolute stupidity, and the senselessness of having no digital foresight, as explained by Nick Hoult in the Telegraph…
Several counties have been circulating footage of championship action on their social media pages and Nottinghamshire even streamed a match live on their club website when they played Surrey at the start of the season, although this is permitted under the ECB deal with Sky.
Many clubs see it as a vital way of marketing the county championship which struggles to attract crowds and has proved popular.
But the ECB this week emailed all the counties reminding them they are not allowed to stream “as live” content online because it contravenes their exclusive broadcast deal with Sky Sports which is in place until 2019.
Talks are ongoing with Sky to try and hammer out a deal which will allow the counties more freedom to show county action online but until then they have asked the clubs to stop breaking the contract.
An email from Rob Calder, the ECB’s head of marketing, was sent to county chief executives this week outlining the rules agreed with Sky, which will show its first county action of the summer next week when it screens live coverage of the match between Nottinghamshire and Yorkshire at Trent Bridge from Saturday.
Under the current deal counties are allowed to show highlights lasting five minutes filmed two fixed cameras at either end of the ground. If Sky are covering that match counties are allowed not allowed to screen highlights until 12 noon the following day. If Sky are covering a different match a county is allowed to put highlights of their game up online an hour after play.
But sharing on social media is not allowed until Sky and the ECB come to a compromise although counties sources have told Telegraph Sport they will defy the ban.
Honestly. I’ll let you comment. You know what I think.
The grass-roots funding argument for the Sky deal is, put simply, a lie. The ECB only give £1.5 million a year to Chance To Shine. The ECB accounts reveal, unsurprisingly, that most of their revenue gets paid out to the counties.
Did you see Barry Hearn speaking on the BBC about why snooker has decided to stay with the corporation, and also, at the Crucible? He said that money isn’t everything – heritage, access, and atmosphere matter too. Wily operator though he may be, I sensed he was being sincere.
One senses, Maxie, that their view of grass roots is county cricket and no further!!!
I can’t abide Hearn, but he knows his sport needs to be exposed at all levels, and they know the Beeb clear the decks towards the end of the tournament. If you want to watch more, there’s free-to-air Eurosport to cover your needs. Everyone is a winner!
I think they are jsut about vaguely aware of the (already rich) Premier League clubs who take their intake directly from the local private schools.
The fact that the vast majority of youngsters are introduced to cricket by small village clubs who exist on a shoestring budget and the goodwill of volunteers appears to elude them.
There is an ENORMOUS amount of love for cricket out there. People who love cricket, really love cricket. I am a fairly typical club youth coach, and I volunteer absurd amounts of time and significant expenditure running our junior section, and I don’t regret a single second or penny. But the ECB couldn’t give three fucks about me or the 9-13 year olds I coach.
I barely made it to vote yesterday because I had to leave the house at 7:30am to pick up some helmets from the pavilion before work and then by the time I had dropped off the last junior after their match, it was 9:50pm and I just got into the polling station before it closed.
That’s a pretty typical summer day.
Just checking, AB, you and your club get no money from the TCCB (sorry, ECB).
I’d love someone to ask one of the big wigs where they thought the grass roots where, like this:
So, you’re funding free beach cricket sets at seaside resorts round Europe?
No, so you’re funding councils to maintain squares in parks?
Oh, so pub teams get subsidised insurance then?
You must mean the village clubs up and down the land?
No, because you’re teaching out to disenfrancised Asian sides?
Brilliant article, you’ve summed up everything I think here.
Problem is now that FTA is nothing but a pipe dream, the war has been lost. The ECB wants the money and stuff growing the game, those that can afford to watch cricket are our target market.
I wrote in an old article how I was lucky to come into contact with cricket (invited by my team captain, family had Sky etc, but not sure I’d have been as lucky if I was in my childhood years again). Cricket needs to be able to captivate the masses just like only cricket can (see Notts vs Yorkshire the other day), but it doesn’t, many have never seen it or played and the lack of opportunity to do either is criminal.
I also think Sky’s coverage (not commentary) is first class, but we need FTA avenues (YouTube, county websites etc to engage the followers of the future). This short term ‘cash cow’ mentality not only harms the game now, but also in the future.
Anyway rant over, loved the article.
Don’t worry – Tom Harrison has a solution, as he told TMS last year:
“What will be absolutely critical going forward is how we use our digital capability to connect with the youth – you know, the 16-24s now, but it’s actually a lot younger than that, from 5 years old. How do we create new content? How do we get our key personalities and role models out through all the different social media mechanisms that we have now to a way where kids are connecting with them, which doesn’t put the pressure necessarily on us to have the debate about terrestrial TV all the time?”
The current social media whizz is to call it the “Champo”, have a patronising hashtag called #propercricket and to highlight every time “skip” gets it past 50.
For my sins, I follow the ECB on Facebook.
But recently, when every run scored by a certain second division batsman was hailed with an ECB video with some cheery, hagiographic subtitles, I blocked them.
Now how are they going to connect with me?
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Northernlight 71……..that is priceless. Funniest thing I’ve read today? Thanks!
We are talking muppets in a digital age.
Lord McLaurin lobbied the government of the day in 1998 (labour) and the PM (Bliar) was more than happy to give Rupert and Sky the green light.
Well done Dmitri, and I thought you were losing Yor passion. Not true.
For what it’s worth I always thought the move from the BBC to channel 4 was a classic conspiracy move. Much harder to move cricket directtly to Sky from the Beeb. So move it off BBC, but keep it on free to air, and then later sell it to sky once the politicains had done the wheeling and dealing to get cricket taken off the crown jewels list. The shock of the Old guard had been lessened.
My criticism of the ECBs deal with Sky is they are completely lacking in any original ideas about how to lessen the TV black out. For example, many people who don’t like football, and don’t want to pay a 12 month contract costing approx £700 a year. Perhaps they might buy a ticket for a test match on Sky for say £25-40 for the full 5 days. Why not put that in the contract to try to encourage more people to watch without bankrupting them? Or how about demanding Sky show some ODIs on Sky one or two for free? At least get the sport visible.
I suspect it’s all too little to late. A generation has been and gone. The break with the past has already happened. The ECB are now trapped in a shrinking market with only one broadcaster who can pay them what they need to pay the wages of the players. And yes, the money has gone to the players not the grass routes. Because they were terrified of the players all going off to play IPL. One of the reasons they were able to keep so many players away from there was because they could offer them large central contracts. England didn’t have the problems the WI and New Zealamd have had. No wonder Sky and the ECB are as tight as a drum.
By the way, at the time the BBC lost cricket they were losing the plot themselves. They were in full John Birt mode, where nobody was trusted to make a decision. The sports editor couldn’t say ” we won’t break off to go to the news 5 mins early, because it’s quite exciting and a key moment in the test.” The power had been ripped from the dept editors. Managememt had already decided that they must go to a two minute advert slot of BBC programmes before the 1 pm lunch time news. It was the beginning of the dumming down of the network. And no, they don’t want cricket back all day. They would much rather run endles political news show with pundits pontificating. It’s cheap as chips to produce.
Thank AB….seriously. He got me thinking.
I’m a natural pessimist, and I think it is now too late. There are options to broaden appeal, but the article by Nick Hoult in the Telegraph that I added to the article tells you why it can’t work. Are they really going to tell Sky to pay them the same AND have some sort of digital online media platform of their own?
We know the answer to that. Murdoch still hasn’t mastered the online platforms, and he is the only man in town with the money needed to pay the ECB. Too late. Much too late.
I agree with you too about this love in with Sky from sports jounalists. It stinks. It’s one thing for Murdoch employees to have to tow the line, but when you see other non Murdoch players lavishing praise on Sky while attacking BT you want to throw up.
They seem to want just one pay per view sports broadcaster. Which is fine until the same clowns who claim to believe in market forces, attack ITV or BBC for not paying the market rate. It seems market forces for thee, but not for me. I suspect they are pissed they have to pay two different broadcasters. But hey that’s the wonder of having comercial pay per view competition. They seem to want a private monopoly. All this hand ringing over the champions league viewing figures is such hot air when they nothing about cricket. Hypocrites.
I thought the BBC were more than happy to lose test match cricket and despite a few teething problems with the start times I thought channel 4 did a really good job, I guess it helped that England were a better team and were winning more than they were losing towards the end of their contract.
TV is more of a social medium than given credit to. There are probably countless people who got exposed to cricket for the first time, when gramps was watching the game, and they were staying over for a bit. Or even run accidentally into it, when the TV was simply switched on. In the past there were not that many channels to choose from, so it was either cricket, or whatever else was on the few other channels.
With the proliferation of channels, chances of accidentally encountering cricket are greatly reduced. In that sense, getting cricket back to FTA will run into challenges. But you also have to consider the demographics that are excluded on the basis of the currently dominant extortion principle. And I am not so sure, that the most effective demographics to transfer their passion for the game to the newer generations are currently subscribed to Sky.
The problem with online presence is that you are still having to look for it. Besides it is a lot less social than the name social media suggests. Everybody is staring at their own screen, be it a telephone or a laptop screen. As such, you won’t really share what you accidentally run into (so what if gramps is tweeting to the ECB? Or watching the most incredible-never-achieved-before-by-an England-captain-leg-glance?) It does not matter to the child, since even if the physical space is shared, the mental space is not. Unlike how things used to be twenty years ago.
And seriously? How do you connect the normal interests of 0-15 year olds to cricket? Barney the dinosaur is (I have no kids, so I might be behind) not wielding a cricket bat. As far as I am aware, the links between say Beyonce and cricket are strenuous at best. Wayne Rooney and cricket? First person shooters (and other computer games) and cricket? Do young people really care about celebrities that much to the extent that their attendance of a Lord’s Test will make them want to watch cricket? How does that work for Wimbledon?
I’ll make no excuses. Whenever I watch cricket, I do it on illegal streams. Simply because the legal options are not even available to me. I am the biggest threat to cricket according to Giles Clarke. Not the 40-odd million or so people who can’t even watch the game in the UK. No, people who actually take an interest in the game are a bigger threat than people who can’t distinguish cricket from croquet. Think about it,
No one directly connected to the game makes money out of me. That is certainly a loss of revenue for the vultures at the ECB, BCCI, and all the other boards (though as far as I am aware, only in England all international cricket is behind a pay wall).
What is more, because it is behind a paywall, I can’t really talk about the game to anyone in a physical space about it. I am reduced to making friends online through cricket. That is great! But it won’t help to grow the game, since I am speaking to the converted. And may I add, to the increasingly dejected converted. No matter whether they’re based in the West Indies, India, England or Australia. No one sees a bright future for international cricket.
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Brilliant post D’ARTHEZ!
You make some excellent points. I came across cricket on free to air tv as a child in the 1960s. My parents had no interest in the sport. As you say there were only 2/3 channels so it was easy to find. But I found it in the summer holidays, and was captivated by this sport. I already knew about football, because that was eveywhere, and we played it in the playground of my primary school.
I think your point about you being a threat to the game in the eyes of the morons who are running the sport is very true. They only see cash signs in their eyes. Growing the game is of no importance because they are only interested in the bottom line for the next 3 years. After that, they will have gone off to do something else.
I find it amazing that the sport of cricket hates the people on this site, yet we have a passion for the sport. (Or at least we did have) The ECB have someone like Dmitri writing a blog site about their game, and they want to dish it because it won’t be obedient to their corporate model. It’s not as if the are getting huge market share is it?
Cricket has never been universally loved. Many kids I grew up with who liked football didn’t like cricket. But at least kids saw it, and played it a bit. Not any more. Successive govts from both parties, and for different ideological reasons have killed sport in schools. I’m just glad I got to grow up in a different world to the one we have now. I probably would never have found cricket today.
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“There are probably countless people who got exposed to cricket for the first time, when gramps was watching the game, and they were staying over for a bit”
I think there are still enough people aged 25+ who have enough of a passing interest in cricket that they would have it on the tv in the kitchen or living room in preference to The One Show, and even if their kids don’t sit down and watch it straight away, its inevitable that they’re slowly going to recognise the sport and a proportion of them will begin to get into it.
There is also the social media angle – cricket on FTA tv would have an exponentially bigger audience amongst existing casual fans, which would lead to an exponential increase in tweets and facebook posts about it. Even kids who don’t watch tv are going to wonder what everyone is talking about and flick to youtube to have a look at that huge six/amazing catch/whatever.
Think I’ve already got 2000 words for a follow up.
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Dmitri….make it 10000 before our leader gets there… 😉 36 to go, 36 to go….
Oh, I forgot, you’re not allowed to have individual targets…
…unless you are our ‘leader’….
For my sins, I really hate the way Sky are treated as if they can justify exclusivity because of their “innovation”. I keep reading articles about how they changed and improved cricket coverage, when what they really did was install some extra cameras and took up technology such as Hawk-Eye as it became commercially available.
Put simply, Sky’s business model is to take things that are already popular (football, cricket etc.), put it behind a pay-wall and spend lots of money on it. It’s essentially the same with their drama department. There is not a single tv program that they’ve commissioned that wasn’t created by people who did earlier, better work on the BBC, Channel 4 or ITV. While some of the stuff is good, it would be nothing at all without the FTA channels’ hard work.
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Exclusivity is the Murdoch model. It is the same with his movie channels. He signs deals up front with the big Hollywood studios to exclusive rights. This way no other tv broadcasters can show the films for a set period. It’s the monopoly model. The customer has no choice. It’s a Fedual model where gatekeepers control the price ,and they are the only ones who get to decide what and when something will be shown. Essentially the only competition in the process is done by Murdoch himself bidding against perhap one other competitor. The paying customer is frozen out.
It s quite worrying how so many people in the media attack BT for wanting to try and compete against Murdoch. The BBC and ITV haven’t got the money to do it.
The problem is that it’s just another paywall and it hasn’t stopped the relentless march of subscription prices. I don’t object to the idea competition but it’s just another cost that consumers are expected to bear. I’d rather see packages of matches, some international and some domestic, broken down and sold to a variety of broadcasters with guarantees that at least some will be free to view, either on TV or online.
I know that there are a variety of good reasons why it wouldn’t work but surely something has to give in the near future.
The way Sky try to retain their “exclusivity” of anything they have the rights for is simply an obvious manifestation of the lie we have been fed during the last 40 years of neoliberalism.
Competition and efficiency isn’t the system they want. Nor even responsible capitalism. It’s monopolisation.
In earlier years, a lot of natural monopolies were controlled by the state, admittedly not always very well, but at least in some sense for the common good.
Now it’s simply all been sold for the sake of squeezing as much profit out of us all as possible.
The whole point of competition Alec is that its supposed to drive down prices as channels compete for viewers by slashing their subscriptions prices. However exclusivity contracts and vertical integration undermines this process.
Very true Northern light 71.
The exclusive model negates consumer competion. This model is now moving into the very aspects of human life. Namely patented genetically modified food, large corporations will soon own the entire food system. And can then erect gate keepers to demand payment. As you say it kills competition. Copyright law is also being upset to kill competition.
But competition is not something big business realy likes. Adam Smith laid all this out in his wealth of nations. (Although surprise, surprise his supporters never quote these bits.) for example he said left to their own devices the capitalist will always try to rig or fix the system for themselves.
That is why you need regulatory, and anti trust laws. Unfortunately neo lineralism has convinced the idiot politicians this is not necessary. And so in industry after industry we see increasingly a few players dominating each market. As JP Morgan the famous American banker and industrialist said over a hundred years ago…..” Competition is a sin, it’s bad for business.”
Great article, and thanks for engaging. I don’t entirely agree, as you might expect. You seem despondent, whereas I am angry. I’m angry because I DO see a way out of the current situation.
I think your mistake is that you are treating popularity as an exogenous variable, for example in your comparison of how popular baseball is compared to cricket. But this misses the point: popularity is a function of exposure and marketing. Baseball is only popular because of the way in which the mlb sells its rights and promotes the sport.
If the ECB had taken a different path in 2005 and gone down the baseball route, cricket could very well be in a similar situation to baseball now with big tv deals, well-known players, sell-out crowds and expensive tickets behind the bowler’s arm.
Cricket is only currently unpopular and struggling because the ECB are consciously choosing high salaries in the short term over growth and long term sustainability. Right now, its not too late to do things differently – in ten years time, it may be.
Thanks to you AB for getting me off my arse (figuratively) and writing something!
Hello. You mention in passing Joe Root not being nominated for SPOTY. I did some research into SPOTY and cricketers in the 27 years since Sky was founded. My conclusion is that it wouldn’t have made a blind bit of difference if he had been nominated. I loathe the modern SPOTY, by the way, and offer this simply as an illustration of the ongoing impact of nationally-televised sport on the general public.
Of 27 winners (two of them twice), only four did not have regular live free-to-air exposure. Two of those were boxers. The others were Ryan Giggs (who would have been seen on a very well-established weekly highlights programme… understatement of the century, we all know what that is and how central it remains) and Mark Cavendish. I will add Greg Rusedski if someone confirms that the BBC did not show his US Open final live – from memory I think they did.
A cricketer won only in 2005, of course, but there’s plenty of evidence that he and his contemporaries still have greater name recognition amongst the general public than anyone to play for England since.
Most damningly of all, four different England cricketers were nominated during one of the national side’s most successful periods ever. They finished as follows:
– Strauss (2009) 8th of 10, 2% of vote
– Swann (2010) 9th of 10, 3.3%
– Strauss and Cook (2011), 6th and 7th of 10, 5.3% and 3.8% (this was a year with a far lower overall vote than any other)
– Bell (2013), 10th of 10, 0.8% (a year with a particularly high vote, for fairly obvious reasons)
Overall, 2.274 million votes were cast in those four polls.
67,662 votes were cast for five eligible cricketers. About 3%, and less than the number who voted for Tyson Fury alone in 2015. Strauss’s 2011 total, the highest for any cricketer in an individual poll, was just under 18,000. This would have placed him 11th out of a notional 13 in 2015, ahead of only Adam Peaty and Lucy Bronze. Both Peaty and Bronze would have beaten Alastair Cook’s total in the same year (13,038, or about 17 votes per 2010/11 Ashes run).
But hey, let’s join Selvey, Clarke et al in pretending TV exposure makes no difference at all, and everyone just wants the internet.
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Didn’t Ryan Giggs play in the Champions League or FA cup? Both live on FTA tv at that time.
He was a beaten finalist in the Champions League of 2009, yes. However I think the nomination was principally due to him being the 08/09 PFA Player of the Year at the age of 35, *cough* “despite having started just 12 games throughout the 2008–09 season (at the time of receiving the trophy).”
It’s certainly arguable either way, I suppose.
Perhaps it was because of his notorious personal life and his failed Super Injunction???