England’s upcoming cricket test series against India is risking a TV blackout in the UK as broadcasters are yet to pick up the rights to the high-profile cricket tour.
The series, which begins in Hyderabad, India, on January 25, has been tendered to TV companies in the UK, but the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI), Indian cricket’s governing body which holds the rights to the tour, is yet to agree a deal.
It has not been uncommon for BCCI media rights deals in the UK to be agreed on short notice, with the body typically waiting until the last minute to spark up negotiations.
2021’s edition of England’s same tour of India only found a broadcast home less than a week before the first test date, with free-to-air station Channel 4 unexpectedly securing the rights.
In December 2023, the BCCI only agreed a deal with UK pay-TV broadcaster TNT Sports to broadcast the England women’s team’s tour of India on the day of the first test.
Channel 4 is not expected to be interested in the rights to the tour this time around, focusing on its stewardship of the rights to the 2024 Paralympic games, while other free-to-air channels in the country are also unlikely to be interested in the tour.
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This leaves pay-TV giants Sky Sports and TNT Sports as the most likely home of the rights. Sky has traditionally held the rights to English cricket and currently holds the rights to England's home internationals through 2024.
The broadcaster picked up the rights to the team’s 2023 tour of Bangladesh and has always shown a heavy interest in keeping English cricket’s rights on the platform, however, TNT Sports has also made in-roads into the sport, most recently picking up the aforementioned England Women’s tour of India in 2023.
The competition between the two broadcasters means that the BCCI is likely to find a home in the UK for the rights, with it only depending on how close to the tour’s start that the deal is secured.
The BCCI has found a radio broadcaster in the UK however, with UK radio giant TalkSPORT securing the radio rights to the tour.
In India, the rights to all home international cricket matches are held by Indian media and entertainment heavyweight Viacom18, which broadcasts games through its Jio Cinema platform.
The sought-after rights were purchased by Viacom18 in August 2023, for INR59.63 billion ($721.2 million), seeing the broadcaster consolidate several cricket rights in the world’s largest cricket market.
Viacom18 already held digital rights to the prestigious Indian Premier League men’s franchise tournament, and all-encompassing rights to the equivalent Women’s Premier League Twenty20 competition.