Sky Sports is in advanced talks with the England & Wales Cricket Board about keeping home internationals with the broadcaster for another decade.
Industry sources expect Sky and the governing body to reach agreement on extending the current deal, which still has two years left to run. After dismal results during the Ashes, and Government financial threats following the racism crisis, the ECB would welcome the prospect of long-term cash stability.
From the broadcaster’s perspective, a new deal would show viewers that executives remain as committed as ever to the sport, despite the recent departure of popular commentator David Lloyd.
Given the post-Covid market conditions, a fresh deal would be unlikely to exceed the estimated current £1.1 billion total package on a year-to-year basis. But there are suggestions that Sky has expressed interest in an even longer term than the current five-year rights cycle – possibly for 10 years.
As well as all England’s home internationals, county cricket, T20 and the new Hundred competition, shared with the BBC, would also remain with the broadcaster. The ECB could use the offer to tempt other broadcasters to the market, but BT Sport may now present a less serious rival amid current uncertainty around its potential sale.
Sky, which has had exclusive rights to England’s home series since 2006, appears to be justified in its decision not to compete with BT for Cricket Australia’s package.
Viewing figures for some matches were believed to have dipped below 100,000 in recent weeks as England’s poor performances left the series as a “rapidly declining” asset for UK broadcasters.
A long-term Sky deal for cricket would come during increasingly turbulent times for sports broadcasting. In November, Telegraph Sport disclosed how Discovery is in talks over a deal to partner with BT Sport, in a move that would hijack the network’s £600m sale to sports streaming service DAZN.
Unlike F1, which has its own dedicated audience, research by Enders Analysis shows the majority of cricket-loving subscribers are also willing to pay for the broadcasters’ football offerings.
Lloyd, known as “Bumble”, confirmed last week that he will be commentating on talkSport radio’s coverage for two of England’s three Tests against West Indies after standing down from his 22-year role with Sky Sports before Christmas.