Sky Sports, the heavyweight UK pay-TV broadcaster, has extended its partnership with the England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB) governing body through to the end of 2028.
The new deal, announced today (July 14) and taking effect from 2025, will take the partnership between Sky and the ECB past 30 years and will deliver “more live cricket on Sky Sports, more on free-to-air TV, and further increased investment to help grow the game and get more people playing.”
However, the four-year renewal falls short of the decade-plus-long extension that was reportedly being discussed earlier this year.
Nonetheless, it will see a minimum of 90 extra hours of live cricket shown on TV in the UK each year – both home internationals and domestic – compared to the current five-year deal, which was signed in 2017 and took effect in 2020.
Noting the impact that the current deal has had, the ECB has flagged that 134 million more hours of cricket from its competitions were watched in 2021 compared to 2017, while a new high of 14 million people played, attended, or followed the game in 2021 – an increase of 3 million since 2019.
As part of the new agreement, Sky has made a “defined commitment” to broadcast more women’s cricket than ever before, including two free-to-air international T20 matches, while it has also agreed to a minimum of eight women’s matches from the Hundred short-format domestic competition being shown on terrestrial TV – up from a minimum two in the previous agreement.
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As one of two sponsor official broadcast partners along with the public service BBC of The Hundred, which debuted last year, Sky has played a significant role in the development of the competition and will now continue to be part of that until 2028.
Sky will also air at least 50% more live games from the Vitality Blast competition, a T20 format of the game, with one game per round to be live streamed for free on Sky Sports Cricket’s YouTube channel and a new weekly highlights show to be aired on terrestrial television.
In addition, it has been agreed that counties will have rights to stream each of their Vitality Blast group games on their own platforms.
There will be continued investment in grassroots cricket including through the Dynamos Cricket program and through initiatives for children and women and girls’ cricket.
It was reported earlier this month that the new deal is similar to the current arrangement from 2017, which sees Sky pay in the region of £220 million ($263 million) per year for rights to England’s men’s and women’s home fixtures, as well as the domestic competitions such as The Hundred and the T20 Blast.
The existing deal, covering the 2020-24 cycle, is by far the ECB’s largest single source of revenue and has led to significant increases in the levels of money across the top echelons of the English game.
Sky has been the dominant cricket broadcaster in England since 2006, having signed its first deal with the ECB ahead of the 1999 season.
Before 2006, Sky shared domestic rights to England’s home international series with commercial free-to-air broadcaster Channel 4.
Currently, Sky covers all of England’s home internationals, while the BBC has joint rights to a handful of men’s and women’s T20 internationals each year.
While its domestic coverage of England games is now reportedly secure, Sky has been gradually relinquishing its rights to overseas cricket in recent years.
Clare Connor, interim chief executive of the ECB, said: “Sky have been fantastic partners for cricket for over 30 years. Their broadcast coverage is rightly lauded as the best in the world, but more significantly than that we have a shared commitment to growing the sport and investing in more opportunities not only for people to watch and follow cricket in all its forms, but also to pick up a bat and ball.
“Thanks to Sky and the support of other partners, we saw a record 14 million people playing, attending, or following cricket in 2021. This year alone, 10,000 children will get the chance to have a free taste of cricket through Sky Dynamos Intros, while many, many more will benefit from facilities and opportunities to play which are only possible because of Sky’s investment. It shows this media rights model is working, and we are very grateful for Sky’s ongoing support.”
Stephen van Rooyen, executive vice president and chief executive for the UK and Europe at Sky, added: “This is an exciting time for English cricket and we’re thrilled to be furthering our long and successful partnership with the ECB. Together we will continue to help grow the game while boosting participation in the sport by children from all backgrounds through initiatives like our Dynamos Cricket Intros.
“On screen, we will continue to push boundaries in our BAFTA-winning coverage, bringing Sky Sports viewers even more live action from 2025 – including more women’s cricket than ever before – with men’s and women’s England internationals and domestic cricket. Sky’s investment over the last 30 years has contributed to a great deal of success on the pitch, and we hope to be at the forefront of much more to come.”