06 Apr

The International Cricket Council (ICC) is strongly considering unbundling the rights for women’s global tournaments to capitalise on growing interest in the women’s game, highlighted by this year’s Twenty20 World Cup in Australia.

The rights to women’s events have previously been sold as part of the package for men’s events. But after the success of this year’s women’s T20 World Cup, the ICC now believe that the women’s game may be best-served by unbundling the global rights for the 2023-31 cycle.

Manu Sawhney, the chief executive of the ICC, told The Telegraph “All of our data points over the last three years have shown us that fans are interested in women’s cricket. Our global market research shows that 70 per cent of our one billion plus fans want to see more women’s cricket,”

“There is an audience for women’s cricket out there and rights holders along with broadcasters and brands are starting to realise that. There is a clear opportunity here for the sport and we are currently exploring various options to optimise value generation including the unbundling of women’s rights.”

ICC’s digital channels were in overdrive during the 21 February to 8 March event in Australia, with an astonishing 1.1 billion total video views, making it the most watched ICC women’s event ever and the second most successful ICC event after the ICC Men’s Cricket World Cup 2019.

The figure was more than 20 times the video views delivered in the previous edition played in the West Indies in 2018 and 10 times the previous most successful women’s cricket event, which was the ICC Women’s Cricket World Cup in 2017.

The record-breaking trend continued via broadcast with the final of the event achieving record viewership in both India and Australia, after their teams played in front of 86,174 fans at Melbourne Cricket Ground on International Women’s Day.

The men’s and women’s editions of the T20 World Cup used to be played concurrently, but since 2018 the two events have been uncoupled, in an attempt to optimise the stand-alone global events. There are currently planned to be eight women’s global events in the 2023-31 cycle - the same number as men’s competitions.

Selling the rights to women’s events separately, meaning that broadcasters would bid specifically for those matches - rather than get them as part of their package of men’s events, as has previously been the case - is seen as a potential way to galvanise interest in the women’s game further in the years ahead. Other major global sports have recently acted similarly, with the Fifa Women’s World Cup 2019 sold in some territories as a standalone event and World Rugby selling broadcasting rights to future women’s rugby events separately.

“We want to build a long-term sustainable foundation for the game and commercialisation is a central plank of that which is why we are exploring the unbundling of rights,” Sawhney said. “We need to take a step forward and for me that is not about the value of the rights in the first instance, but positioning them as commercial product that delivers value on its own. Look at Billie Jean King and the Original Nine, their first contract was for $1 but it was a leap of faith that drove transformational change. Doing what we’ve always done will not achieve that.

“As broadcasters and brands start to invest specifically in women’s sport then promotional budgets will follow. This third-party promotion combined with the reinvestment of income will help our aspiration to accelerate the growth of the game.”

John Stephenson


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