Brains Retrained By a 24 Inch Remote

This will be a pretty short post, I promise. By my standards.

Something has caught my eye on Twitter the past couple of days – a post from Football 365 on the so-called Sky Revolution of football in England, via the behemoth that is the Premier League:

We, in Outside Cricket land, are not going to be strangers to this argument. The fact that the game has been hidden from view on pay TV is a common thread of comment over the past four years – five if you include HDWLIA. The sheer fact that in the new deal for the Hundred (and other associated packages) that the ECB has felt compelled to put some of the sport on so-called Free-to-Air is an admission of error. The sport left that medium in 2005, and has paid dearly for it. It isn’t the only reason we are in the mess we are in with the game – envy, greed, stupidity, stubbornness, short-termism have manifested themselves in other ways over the years. But there is no doubt that keeping cricket locked away on Sky has been a real problem. They are prepared to pay the big bucks, but for how long? Viewing figures don’t seem to justify it, even for football. For instance, when Millwall played Blackburn on Sky, who outside of the fan-bases of those two clubs would have given a stuff about it? I can’t imagine viewing figures were much above 20000. Yet the deal pays the clubs quite a bit of cash. I don’t bet, so all those adverts are a total waste of time for me.

Cricket is not a visible. There’s a great part in Ali Martin’s piece last August which sums up where we are…

On the Friday before England’s defeat at Trent Bridge the BBC staged a smiley and slapstick Twenty20 match between Test Match Special and the Tailenders Podcast, with a few famous faces thrown in. Though fun, it was barely benefit-match standard. But it drew 5,000 to Derbyshire’s County Ground and, more eye-catchingly, a television audience of around 400,000 via the red button.

The BBC had similar numbers for the first TMS match in Leeds last year, too – 400k plus another 100k via the iPlayer (around as many as watched the last day of the first Ashes Test in 2015 live) – such that the comedian Miles Jupp in his speech at the Wisden dinner in April quipped about the “frightening statistic” that more people had seen him play cricket on terrestrial TV than Joe Root.

And make that Alastair Cook, who’s entire career was played behind a paywall. If you did not watch the highlights, or the Sky live coverage, Kevin Pietersen probably still has that badger haircut and bad teeth!

At the weekend the US played its most prominent sporting event, the Superbowl. Each weekend during the season a game is played live on CBS, Fox and NBC. An additional game is played on ESPN which most, not all, cable households have in the US. NFL Network also has a game, but it’s not always a top drawer and each team can only play live on it once a season. The thought the whole sport could be stuffed onto a pay TV network would be seen as ridiculous. Unless you do what MLB does, which is offer a brilliant, almost total online package for £100 for the season, and you can watch what you like when you like (with very few exceptions, and with local black-out rules for local TV).

I have heard people like Selvey moan at the likes of us for saying that the return to FTA would not be the cure-all we suggest. Well he’s sticking up more strawmen than a Wizard of Oz rehearsal in that sort of argument. It’s a bit like a smoker who has given up for a week moaning about a lung cancer diagnosis because he’s quit. The long-term damage has been done, and while packing in was a good idea, it’s not going to cure the sins of the past. The audience for cricket has moved on, while the audience for live sport has still got legs, as proved by the ratings for the Six Nations – wisely kept largely on FTA for the duration.

If there were a vision, and if there were a way, the 2019 World Cup would be on FTA. Sky should open it up to all, all the time if they give a crap about the sport, and want to keep their superior production values that everyone bangs on about (hey, didn’t Channel 4 do a really good job too?). We spoke with a journo before Christmas who asked whether we thought if England made a great run to the World Cup Final, if it would capture the nation. While we (Chris and I) both thought it would not do any harm, we were doubtful that the nation (outside of cricket fans) would care. Because they would not be able to see it. I’d love Sky to announce that if England make the semi-final, that they would broadcast their remaining games to all.

I am not a fan of the Sky Sports Cricket Channel. I’ve seen the re-run of that T20 Final and Carlos Brathwaite an inordinate amount of times. They have cut the number of countries they are taking cricket from instead of increasing them. They have endless loops of repeats. If the ECB won’t give up all the old England highlights, then they are more myopic than I give them credit for. Same with any board not wanting to give the game cheap, free publicity from the derring-do of the past. There’s not a market to watch re-runs of Lara and Tendulkar, Warne and Murali, Curtly or Hadlee? Really? Better than that Legends of Cricket stuff of nonsense.

Cricket needs all the help it can get, and while the Premier League is cited as the example of the success of Pay TV, it remains to be seen how successful that has been in terms of engagement. The playing fields near my house certainly have a lot fewer games on them than when I saw as a kid.

This is just a think-piece at this point, but it also gives me another opportunity to plug one of our great guest pieces by Andy, who took the viewing figures apart in a post two years ago. It has not aged badly for the passage of time. His conclusion is utterly relevant now we see the Hundred and its proposed TV regimen:

The ECB need to decide what they want from their cricket.  Do they want Sky’s (or BT Sport’s which is another topic) pounds, or do they want to get more people watching it (live and on TV), more people talking about it and ultimately more people playing it.

(From –

They want both. Good luck with that.

We’ll be busy this week. The early part of February is always a key one for us. A few things to commemorate.



14 thoughts on “Brains Retrained By a 24 Inch Remote

  1. Philip Feb 5, 2019 / 1:26 pm

    More than 8 million people watched the England Ireland rugby match at the weekend.

    We need cricket to be accessible.

    Liked by 1 person

    • LordCanisLupus Feb 5, 2019 / 1:29 pm

      Ali Martin’s tweet was in direct response to a tweet telling us that. It’s pretty sobering if you are a cricket lover.


    • AB Feb 5, 2019 / 2:13 pm

      and, amazingly, in the past few years, according to Sport England statistics, rugby union (alone) has overtaken cricket in terms of participation for the first time in history.

      If you think of all the ways in which cricket is a far easier and more natural sport to be able to casually participate in, that is an absolutely damning statistic.

      and 90% of that is because the big international rugby matches are still shown on FTA tv.


  2. psoans Feb 5, 2019 / 2:57 pm

    The Ashes must be made a Category A event. There is practically no way to watch the Ashes in Australia because only BT covers it and you have to take a year subscription. At least with Sky Sports you can watch it for a lesser time period through NOW TV. Cricket needs to be more available to watch.


    • LordCanisLupus Feb 5, 2019 / 7:29 pm

      There’s never been category A for overseas Ashes and that’s never going to change.

      Taking home Ashes off to paywall land was short term cash for long term decline. Simple as. Just wish they’d admit it.

      Liked by 1 person

      • thelegglance Feb 5, 2019 / 7:52 pm

        They will never, ever admit to making a mistake. Ever. They won’t apologise for the “outside cricket” gibe, or the mumz ‘n kidz idiocy, or the obsessives line. Why would they apologise for the big stuff?


  3. Mark Feb 5, 2019 / 4:47 pm

    I think the golden age of sports watching on tv is coming to an end. Certainly in terms of numbers. I say this as someone who grew up with free to air live sport ,and watched it slowly drift away to pay per view. When even golf cashes in you know they are in it for the dosh.

    Cricket has killed its audience, but has got rich for a few players and over paid administrators. The ECB is happy to take the money and ask no questions. It’s behaviour to protecting old tv rights is idiotic, and smacks of an organisation run by miserly fools.

    I don’t buy into the view that the 16.4 is being put on FTA to grow the game. I think it is a short term cynical marketing strategy, and if it is successful they will quickly sell it off to Sky in a few years time. They are still miffed they let all the profit from 20/20 disappear abroad without ever taking out a patent so they got a cut.

    I also get the feeling that many sports don’t understand the value of fans or customers. They view them as an annoyance who will always be there. Well many young people are not a captured audience like my age group. There are so many more things be it sports or whatever to participate in. Some of which are not things you want to watch but do. Cycling for example is huge now in numbers of people riding a bike, but watching a five hour bike race is not great tv.

    There is an audience for many sports but not a large paying one. Pay per view has become too much money. Particularly when you add in all the various channels and 1 year or 18 month subscriptions contracts. They need to offer cheaper prices and let you pay per event.

    I’m not convinced the product is that wonderful either. The World cup in football was poor quality. England going to the semi finals was a novelty. There are no super teams in cricket today. As to the premiership, a lot of games are awful. Over hyped and of very poor quality.


    • thelegglance Feb 5, 2019 / 6:30 pm

      Cricket has an advantage for broadcasters (ironically it’s a disadvantage for general FTA ones) in that it fills a lot of screentime. Calculated by the hour, the fees paid are quite cheap.

      The question is how interested BT are in stealing it off them. That’s what I suspect is holding the value up.


  4. dArthez Feb 5, 2019 / 5:53 pm

    According to Clarke, people who watch illegal streams are a bigger threat to the sport than governing bodies’ greed. The ECB still believes that.


    • thelegglance Feb 5, 2019 / 6:42 pm

      That’s because they conflate the health of the ECB with the health of the sport. Apply that to every single statement they make about the good of cricket – there is never, ever anything on that basis that isn’t good for the ECB.

      And the thing is, I think they really believe it too.


      • LordCanisLupus Feb 5, 2019 / 7:12 pm

        I think they conflate highly paid players with success too. And highly paid admin.

        Let’s make no bones about this. The payers will be paying them. Tickets won’t go down. Test Matches won’t be more accessible. The recreational game might get crumbs but Nasser let the cat out of that particular bag.


    • LordCanisLupus Feb 5, 2019 / 7:17 pm

      Hence international cricket boards purging YouTube of clips from the archives. An act of such stupid fuckwittery that it defies comprehension.

      David Bowie once said about illegal downloading that no business ever succeeded by criminalising its customers. He couldn’t have been a cricket fan.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Mark Feb 5, 2019 / 8:37 pm

        The decision to purge old cricket clips from the internet is ludicrous and reveals the madness of the people who run the sport. Do they really think it has large financial value? If they do they are crazy.

        Smacks to me of the mentality of these people. Which is basically “we own the game, so fuck off.” Which is what what most people have now don’t to cricket. They have left.

        The administrators have become obsessed with rights issues, and not creating a decent product. The whole reason for a 16.4 is its something new they can own, and control. If it takes off they want a cut worldwide.

        But the underlining take away is they really, really hate their customers/fans.


      • dArthez Feb 6, 2019 / 10:17 am

        It makes no sense whatsoever. Pretending that the sport does not exist is a great method of getting people interested. But it simply feeds into the narrative to pretend that whoever the current #3 is is the best ever in that position, and same with the bowlers.

        It is actively destroying the history of the game.History is an act of remembrance, and if you make that impossible (by seeing footage of how good certain players were), you’re destroying the game from within. Soon they’ll find ways to copyright scorecards and thus the sport is only suitable for people with the attention span of lobotomized squirrels. Even the Hundred will be beyond those people, as it will be when the inevitable race to the bottom becomes an runaway train wreck in the making.

        Old sports rights (within reasonable bounds) should simply lapse in the public domain. But instead greed takes over. I don’t think there is a single movie that has lapsed in the public domain in the US, simply because rights always get extended the moment some movie from 1895 might lapse into it.


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