UK pay-television heavyweight Sky Sports secured its highest-ever viewing figures for a cricket test match during the men’s 'Ashes' encounter between England and Australia between June 16 and 20.
Sky secured a peak audience of 2.12 million, and an average audience of 1.17 million, on the fifth and last day (Tuesday) as the match – the first of five tests between now and the end of July – came to a thrilling denouement. Across the five days, the average audience was 877,000, making the clash the most-watched Ashes test on Sky Sports in history.
The peak audience during the test at Birmingham’s Edgbaston venue came on day five, as Australia secured a remarkable victory right at the end of the day’s play (in UK primetime). Sky is showing every ball from all five tests live, as well as both short and long-form highlights and feature-style programming across the iconic quadrennial Ashes in England.
Sky holds the vast majority of domestic rights to home England men’s and women’s national team fixtures, as well as to the range of county cricket competitions that take place across the UK cricketing summer. Its most recent deal with the England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB) was struck in July last year and runs through 2028.
in terms of digital coverage of the test, there were 1.8 million views of the clash through digital streaming and over 20 million views of Ashes content across the various Sky Sports social media channels.
There were 11.7 million page views on the Sky Sports mobile app and 3.9 million on skysports.com.
In addition to the television and streaming viewership, the first four days of the game were entirely sold out, while the fifth was a near-sellout.
The next men’s Ashes test begins in London next Wednesday (June 28), while the Women’s Ashes begin today (June 22) in Nottingham and run concurrently with the men’s series.
Jonathan Licht, managing director at Sky Sports, said: “We have a fantastic opportunity with both the men’s and women’s sides who are playing some of the most entertaining cricket in recent memory, and our Sky Sports teams will continue to deliver all of the action throughout the [Ashes] series, via our exclusive coverage and unparalleled commentary team.”
Sky has held exclusive domestic home Ashes rights to every series since 2009. BT Sport has shown the last two editions of the series when it takes place in Australia, however.
Tony Singh, the ECB’s chief commercial officer, added: “This first men’s test kept us all on the edge of our seats and showed the thrills of test cricket at its best.
“It’s great to see the excitement it’s generated across the country, whether it was the sell-out crowds inside Edgbaston or the millions watching on TV, online, or listening. With Sky’s coverage consistently world-beating it’s no wonder it’s made a record-breaking start to the series, and with the women’s Ashes beginning tomorrow, and another four men’s tests to come, there is a massive summer of cricket still to come.”
In Australia, Ashes coverage this series is being provided by free-to-air commercial TV’s Nine Network, through a deal announced in November 2020.
Late last week, meanwhile, the ECB announced a renewed audio rights deal with UK public service broadcaster the BBC through the 2028 season.