29 Jan

Live Test cricket could return to terrestrial television for the first time since 2005 after Channel 4 emerged as the frontrunner to win the rights for England’s four-match series against India, which begins next Friday. 

Star Sports in India owns the rights to the Test and limited-overs series in February and March and had originally decided it would only make the matches available to UK viewers via its own streaming service Hotstar, which would involve viewers taking out an additional monthly subscription. However, there has been a change of strategy by the host broadcaster and they have recently entered negotiations with BT Sports, Sky Sports and Channel 4, although a deal is yet to be finalised. It is not unusual for series played in India not to finalise television deals until the last moment. 

The Times understands that Channel 4 has begun putting plans in place to broadcast the four-match series and has been in contact with freelance production and commentary personnel about their availability. 

It is understood that there had originally been limited interest in bidding for the series from UK broadcasters because of the high price that Star Sports was asking for the rights but sources have indicated to The Times that there has been increased interest after India’s 2-1 win over Australia. 

The rights are understood to be worth between £20 million and £25 million and with the UK still in the midst of a full lockdown, it is expected that viewing figures will be higher than they would normally be — even taking into account three of the four matches start at 4am. Channel 4 would not have to cut programmes from its primetime viewing slots to show the matches. 

England’s two-month tour of India consists of four Test matches, five T20s and three one-day internationals running between February 5 and March 28 but because of the pandemic the Board of Control for Cricket in India is allowing only the host broadcaster entry to the grounds. 

TalkSPORT beat the BBC to secure the radio rights for the tour but will be broadcasting from the UK.   

John Stephenson 


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