Off again….a follow up to yesterday!
I saw a lot of interesting stuff revolving around yesterday’s post. AB is quite right to suggest that I am “despondent” about the future, and the reasons are there to see when looking at the Nick Hoult article in the Telegraph. The sheer level of fright the ECB are showing at their county clubs showing real-time fixed camera action and the impact it has on Sky is remarkable. Once again, the ECB are much more concerned about keeping a broadcaster sweet rather than those who actually want to watch their sport. If this is their attitude, we have no chance.
I find Sky’s attitude to this rather predictable. I take, for example, my visit to the States coming up. I would quite like to watch the cricket easily and accessibly from my tablet/laptop. I don’t want to use any proxy hosting software or illegal streams blighted by poor pictures, spamware, pop-ups et al. I’ve paid for the service, I should be able to use it where I like. When I was with Sky, you could watch Sky Go quite easily. I had two or three attempts to get it to work through Virgin Media and nothing worked on my mobile platforms. So stuff it. They’ve lost a willing consumer for a few weeks, and I get more angry at their intransigence. That’s a perfect model for sustainability, right there. However, even if I got it to work, I’d need to go through a proxy server abroad. Why? To protect US cricket broadcasting rights? What broadcasting rights? If I were the ECB I’d be screaming blue murder at this inconvenience and stupidity that a person wanting to consume their “product” has to go through. So, folks, I won’t be seeing a ball of the second and third tests against Sri Lanka, despite paying for Sky Sports. What a f*cking joke.
There is a way for the ECB to change this, but they won’t. They are now the addict to the Sky “pusher”, needing their fix of Sky cash, bowing to all their demands, just to keep going. Without Sky money, they have a cricketing model that is now knackered. They have seen salaries inflate for the top players, they’ve increased the ticket prices, and now we see the northern heartlands turning away from test cricket. The ECB needs to start thinking more creatively. The fixed camera coverage belongs in the Stone Age. I have watched Minor League Baseball online – it was given away for $10 on top of the MLB Premium package a few years ago – and it was better than that. The ECB need to invest in a proper digital streaming platform to allow people to watch cricket on their TVs and other platforms at home or on the move. So when there are 9 games scheduled on the Friday special T20 nights, the other 8 not covered by Sky do not disappear into the ether. Pitch it at a reasonable price – £50 a season – and try it. I hear the powers say that the youth consume their experiences differently now (a bit patronising. I’m not a youth, and so do I) and yet they stick with the arcane TV model that stifles digital content. They’ve made some steps on the ICC tournament front, but everything else is done to protect the big deal. Because without the big deal, they are royally f*cked.
I saw a Tweet earlier to say that the BCCI had taken down AlternativeCricket. The authorities treat bloggers and cricket nuts, who want to share their love of the game, 99 times out of 100 for absolutely no commercial gain like criminals. Get some enlightenment. Every single one of those people who click on here, other blogs, youtube channels, Facebook pages, twitter feeds is a customer. Each one of those people is getting engrossed in cricket and wants to find out more. They want to read about it. They want to watch the highlights. They want to damn well love the game. What do these short-sighted f*ckwits do? And they are f*ckwits. Go after them. Why? Why the hell pursue Robelinda for his brilliant video clips? Why get Facebook to delete Alternative Cricket? Because there might be a couple of quid you are missing out on? As Mark and others say, this isn’t a free market at all, it’s straight up protectionism. I’ve always said, if I felt like, today, I wanted to see a clip of Brian Lara’s 277 at the SCG, I should be able to find it somewhere and watch it. If Channel 9, the rights holders want to charge a nominal fee, so be it. I might pay it. But you can’t and they won’t. So Rob puts a clip up online, a service the rightsholder doesn’t want to provide and has shown that to be the case, and he is potentially threatened with a copyright suit by some organisations? Where is the sense in that? Really. Where is the sense….
Let’s go back to domestic cricket and the County Championship. There is a latent audience out there. Some people would quite like to be able to watch their county on the way home from work, or in their breaks, and a basic (above fixed camera) feed with commentary would be a really good way to go about this. Others displaced, retired or unable to attend could watch an hour or two as they pleased. When something magnificent is happening, people can dip in and watch it. I don’t know the expense, but let’s say it is plausible. A web platform on the Smart TVs, via digital TV platforms (a la Netflix and Youtube on Virgin or Xbox) and mobile hardware would be a terrific innovation. There’s a chance this might just work.
Rather than try silly, costless innovations like the points system, try something that might last. That might be a trend setter. Have confidence in your ability to connect the sport with people. You hide the whole thing behind a paywall, then you are shutting off a massive potential customer base. I’m despondent because I’ve seen little innovative that is going to address the key problem with the sport. Visibility. Cricket is not football, which still has a major footprint on terrestrial TV as next month’s Euros will show. It is not rugby that has its marquee international tournaments on free-to-air. It is totally hidden.
I believe all the ECB are doing is catering to its existing customer base, and being dictated to by a broadcaster which holds all the cards. Tom Harrison has a mighty job to do. Cutting players salaries is not going to be an option – it never is – and ticket prices are exorbitant for international cricket as it is (given you take much of the weather risk, and all of the overs short risk). It may be too late to find alternative income streams, and yet you hamstring yourself with a TV contract that means innovative counties can’t even get their token highlights shown to make it even harder. It’s a bind of their own making, only cricket lovers are the losers.
That’s right David Collier (referring to the quote I highlighted yesterday). Some of us are emotive over it. Because we think not only that you and your kindred spirits at the ECB are snobs, we also think you aren’t up to it too. In fact, we know you aren’t. Call Stanford…quick.