23 Feb

Cricket Australia (CA) has launched an invitation to tender (ITT) process for its media rights in the UK for the 2021-22 Southern Hemisphere cricket season onwards, covering the coming season’s Ashes Test series among other properties. 

The tender document is understood to offer a broad range of options in terms of what interested parties can bid for. There is no set or maximum deal duration on offer – the ITT sets out CA’s expected content for the next 10 years and bidders can choose what duration they want to make an offer for. Bids can be made for individual events, such as this year’s Ashes or Big Bash League (BBL) domestic T20 tournament, or for multiple events. 

The deadline for first-round bids is in the week beginning March 15. 

CA rights in the UK are currently held by pay-television broadcaster BT Sport in a five-year deal from 2016-17 to 2020-21. BT paid a significant fee increase to snatch the rights from rival Sky, which held them in the previous cycle, 2012-13 to 2015-16. Both broadcasters are expected to be interested in acquiring the rights for the new cycle, although competition between them in the rights market has cooled since the previous deal, agreed in 2015. 

The ITT covers rights for men’s and women’s home national team matches, and men’s and women’s domestic competitions. 

The current calendar of agreed bilateral international cricket tours runs to end-March 2023. But cricket boards have a good idea much further ahead of this time what tours they are likely to host, due to historic reciprocal arrangements and the requirements of the International Cricket Council’s Test, one-day international and T20 international calendars. 

England men’s matches in Australia, and particularly the Ashes Test match series, are the most valuable elements of the tender for UK broadcasters. 

England will play five Ashes Tests between November 22 and January 14, 2022. This will be immediately followed by the women’s Ashes series in Australia. In November 2022, the England men’s team will tour Australia again, playing three one-day internationals and three T20 internationals. 

The annual BBL is the focus of Australia’s men’s domestic cricket calendar and includes 61 matches per year. The tender also includes rights to the annual Women’s BBL, which takes place immediately prior to the men’s tournament and includes 59 matches. 

The UK market has become a tougher one for cricket rights-holders in recent years, which was highlighted when free-to-air broadcaster Channel 4 acquired rights for England’s ongoing tour of India. In years gone by, such a property would have been expected to be the subject of a bidding battle between BT and Sky. 

However, CA has a crown jewel property in The Ashes that it will hope can kindle competition in the market. 

John Stephenson 


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