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January 4, 2021

Disney and Amazon in shake-up for England cricket tours

Cricket fans in the UK face the possibility of having to commit to multiple subscriptions to follow the England national team over the following year as new media players enter the fray.

By Simon Ward

Cricket fans in the UK face the possibility of having to commit to multiple subscriptions to follow the England national team over the following year as new media players enter the fray.

Hotstar, the Indian over-the-top platform owned by Walt Disney, is set to show England’s forthcoming tour of India, according to the UK’s Daily Telegraph newspaper.

Sister network Star India holds domestic and international rights to India’s home matches in a five-year deal with the Board of Control for Cricket in India running to 2022 and worth nearly $1 billion, and which includes streaming coverage on Hotstar.

It would normally be expected to sell on the rights to the India-England series to a UK pay-TV broadcaster such as Sky, but, with none apparently willing to meet the valuation, is reported to be prepared to retain coverage for Hotstar.

The matches would also be available on Disney Plus, the OTT entertainment platform, with the addition of new content in the UK from 23 February.

England are set to play four test matches, five Twenty20 internationals and three one-day internationals on their tour of India in February and March, with matches split between Chennai, Ahmedabad and Pune.

Sky holds live rights to England’s two tests in Sri Lanka this month, held over from last year because of the coronavirus pandemic, through a direct deal with Sri Lanka Cricket.

It is also the main home of the team’s home matches this summer, against Sri Lanka, Pakistan and India, under a five-year, £1.1 billion ($1.5 billion) deal with the England and Wales Cricket Board, also involving the BBC, that came into effect in 2020.

However, the rights to England’s high-profile Ashes series in Australia in 2021-22 remain up for grabs, with Amazon among the interested parties, the Telegraph reported.

The online retail giant has already demonstrated its commitment to live cricket by snapping up rights in India to international matches played in New Zealand for five years starting in 2021-22.

Cricket Australia will be seeking a new broadcasting deal in the UK with the expiration of its contract with pay-TV operator BT Sport after the 2020-21 season.

The latter, which televised the last Ashes series held in Australia in 2017-18 under its current five-year, £80 million deal, is expected to be a contender, along with Sky.

However, Amazon is already familiar with CA having produced 'The Test: A New Era for Australia's Team', an eight-part documentary that culminated with the side's successful retention of the Ashes in England in 2019.

BT Sport is presently broadcasting Australia’s home series against India, which continues with the third of four test matches in Sydney this week, plus New Zealand’s home series against Pakistan, with the second of two tests now taking place in Christchurch.

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