It was a sumptuous weekend for the cricket fans in Australia as they were served a delectable feast on Saturday night and Sunday afternoon. The women players competed for the WBBL championship on Saturday, while the Australia men took on Virat Kohli and co. in the second ODI of the three match ODI series on Sunday. Both these events garnered tremendous viewership which was aggregated to over a million. This number is considered to be notable since neither match was aired on a primary free-to-air channel.
The WBBL final between Melbourne Stars and Sydney Thunder was viewed by nearly 429,000, while some 585,000 were glued to their screens for the second ODI between Australia and India. Sunday’s figures were a new record for ODI broadcasts on Foxtel, surpassing the 544,000 who tuned into the 2015 World Cup final at the MCG, and behind only the 2011 Rugby World Cup semi-final and final as the highest rating sports broadcasts in the network’s entire history.
It was known that Cricket Australia (CA) and Seven were at the cross-roads over the WBBL final, as the governing body was surprised when the broadcaster stepped back from an earlier discussion in which it was believed to be agreed that the decider would take place on Seven’s primary channel provided it was contested between major market teams from Sydney and Melbourne. To sprinkle salt on the wounds, Seven then scheduled the film Frozen, at the exact same 7pm time slot in which the WBBL final was supposed to start.
Seven is not too happy with the broadcasting success of BBL, which it claims has not delivered value despite costing at least 50% of the total value of the rights, alongside the WBBL, women’s internationals and men’s Test matches.
The discourse among CA, Seven and the Australian Chamber for International and Commercial Arbitration is taking place at a time when the nation’s hunger for live cricket is unknown.
I am a former cricketer having represented Mumbai University at All India University level. I was a part of MCA probables for the U-19 and U-23 age group. I have been an avid cricket writer for the last five years. Currently I am pursuing my Ph.D from IIT Bombay.