UK pay-TV broadcaster TNT Sports is reportedly set to win the race to show the upcoming India versus England five-test cricket series.
Various English newspapers have reported a five-year deal for TNT to exclusively cover international cricket taking place in India, with the tie-up set to begin with the five tests against England. That series starts on January 25 in Hyderabad, before fixtures in Visakhapatnam, Rajkot, Ranchi, and Dharamsala running through early March.
However, Sportcal has been told that, despite these reports, nothing has been officially signed or agreed as yet.
A long-term deal like this would give TNT Sports – owned by media and entertainment giant Warner Bros. Discovery (WBD) – the upper hand in its battle with pay-TV rival Sky in terms of holding rights to overseas cricket. TNT already has exclusive deals in place to show action from Australia (including the iconic Ashes series when England tour), New Zealand, and the Caribbean, as opposed to Sky covering fixtures from Pakistan and South Africa. However, Sky does hold the vast majority of exclusive rights to England’s home internationals.
UK broadcast rights for England’s tours of India regularly get sold at the last minute, with free-to-air TV’s Channel 4 picking up rights for the last test series in India between the two sides, in an eleventh-hour deal in early 2021. India won that four-match series 3-1.
This time, rights in the UK were sold on behalf of the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) by the Pitch International agency, which was charged with distributing them to individual broadcasters.
UK media has reported that TNT Sports fended off competition from streaming heavyweight DAZN to secure these rights, which extend over the next five years of national team cricket in India, not just England’s tour.
The deal would, therefore, stretch to cover a limited-overs tour of India by England in January next year, as well as another test match tour scheduled to be held at some point before the agreement comes to an end in late 2028.
It has been reported that Sky did not bid, as their cricketing focus is instead on covering England’s home summers and events organized by the International Cricket Council (through a deal until 2031 unveiled early last year).
The auction for the rights, it is understood, was delayed from the originally planned slot, due to the tender process for domestic rights to soccer’s English Premier League taking place in late November and early December.
Given the last-minute nature of the reported deal, it is unlikely that TNT Sports would send their own production and commentary team to India, and instead would probably rely on the world coverage feed.
This reported deal would represent the most significant cricketing tie-up TNT Sports has entered into since it rebranded from BT Sport last August, following a deal closure between BT Group and WBD.
It is currently covering cricketing action from both Australia and New Zealand, through the aforementioned deals.
Domestically, the five tests will be shown by Viacom18, which secured exclusive linear and digital rights to home India national team matches until March 2028, in August last year.
Viacom18, a media and entertainment heavyweight, is paying INR59.63 billion ($721.2 million) for those rights.