Free-to-air international cricket returns from 2020 as BBC and Sky are big winners in ECB bidding process

The BBC will show highlights packages in primetime as well as retaining the radio rights for long-standing favourite Test Match Special

Rory Dollard
Friday 30 June 2017 11:40 BST
England will be back on the BBC and remain on Sky Sports
England will be back on the BBC and remain on Sky Sports (Getty)

English cricket will return to free-to-air television in 2020 after the BBC won live broadcast rights for 21 matches each summer, including men's and women's internationals and the England and Wales Cricket Board's new Twenty20 competition.

Sky Sports was also successful in holding off competition from BT Sport to retain its position as the main rights holder for the 2020-2024 period, with the intensity of the bidding process leading to a combined windfall of £1.1billion for the ECB.

Live English cricket has not been available on free-to-air since the 2005 Ashes series, shown by Channel 4, and was last seen on the BBC in 1999. The new arrangement will see the corporation show two Twenty20 internationals, one women's T20 international, 10 games from the new T20 competition and eight from the women's equivalent.

All interested parties were invited to tender for package bundles, with a five-man panel including ECB chief executive Tom Harrison and chairman Colin Graves making the final decision.

England T20 internationals will be shown live on the BBC

Announcing the new deal, Harrison focused on the possibility of expanding interest in the game, which has seen participation fall despite heavy investment in recent years.

"This is a great result for cricket. ECB has secured the reach, revenue and relevance the game deserves, to help it to grow," said Harrison.

"Together, these new deals will deliver the partnership, distribution and investment that will fuel the future of our game, driving recreational, professional and international cricket for years to come.

"Sky Sports have offered a true partnership - more than a broadcast deal - with their shared vision for cricket. Here, they further increase their live commitment and have added bold ideas to drive engagement and to help to get a bat and ball in more hands.

"BBC are valuable long-term partners, bringing cricket to listeners, viewers and a new digital audience. We are delighted they will go to another level with live coverage of international and domestic T20 - men's and women's - alongside prime-time highlights shows and a commitment to taking the game to even wider audiences."

Graves added: "Through these exceptional new partnerships with Sky Sports and BBC we have a unique opportunity to give cricket a very bright future.

"It is vital that the game now takes time to plan ahead and invest strategically in all the right places. The ECB Board will lead on this, working closely with all of our stakeholders at every level of the game.

Sky Sports retain their deal to broadcast the majority of English cricket (Rex)

"The professional players - the men and women who entertain us, inspire people to play and draw us to the grounds - will rightly be part of these conversations."

BBC director general Tony Hall welcomed the announcement.

"It's long been our ambition to bring live cricket back to BBC television," he said. "I'm thrilled to see that ambition realised. Cricket is an integral part of the British summer and the BBC will be putting its full weight behind the nation's favourite summer sport.

"Our aim will be to make the new T20 competition a huge success. Existing cricket fans - and the millions more who will discover a new love of cricket - have a huge amount to look forward to."

Barney Francis, managing director of Sky Sports, said: "This is a ground-breaking agreement that represents a new and exciting approach to sports rights in this country. It extends our partnership with the game into a third decade and will see us work with the ECB to excite and engage cricket fans of all ages.

"We will continue to innovate in our coverage and make it accessible across our channels, products and services."

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