Cricket This Summer
Interesting piece in today's Guardian about how the ECB is going to use social networks to popularise cricket this summer: Facebook and Twitter are both bandied around.
All very noble and forward thinking, but to use a massively over-used expression, they're ignoring the elephant in the room.
"This is the biggest summer of cricket ever to take place on these shores. This really is cricket's time. There's no World Cup, there's no European Championships, there's no Olympics," said the ECB's head of marketing, Will Collinson.
He's right. There really are no major sporting events to clash with. So will everyone be watching the cricket?
It's not live on terrestrial, free-to-air television. No cricket. At all. Not a single ball.
Just nightly 45min highlights packages on Five.
The ECB did a massive deal with Sky, and then moaned that the BBC didn't compete. Yes, there'll be radio coverage, but if you want your sport to be followed avidly by a nation, you have to put it on TV.
The World Cup, European Championships and Olympics are all available on free-to-air TV.
When England won The Ashes in 2005 the team got a ticker-tape parade.
In 2005, some of the sessions were watched by as many as 2.5m people live. In 2008, the largest audience for a Test on Sky came on the Saturday during the Third Test against South Africa when 0.58m watched.
While I'm not comparing like with like, it's clear that fewer people watch when it's all on Sky.
Again last summer, only two highlights packages on Five broke the 1m mark - getting 1.00m and 1.02m respectively. C4 got higher viewership for their morning sessions when they broadcast live. That's the difference.
Incidentally, I'm not having a go at Sky. They're entitled to their rights, and they'll be promoting The Ashes like mad. Lots of people cancel their Sky Sports subscriptions when the football's off-air after all. But even Sky probably realises that the reason they sell fewer pay-per-view boxing fights is because there's a generation that's grown up without ever seeing a free-to-air fight. So why would they take an interest?
Perhaps all this will change following the Listed Events Review. Perhaps not. But next time around, the ECB might want to try much harder to get their sport into as many homes as possible. If they want it to have a mainstream future that is...