31 Jan

Big Bash League (BBL) boss Alistair Dobson says this summer’s tournament has been one of the “best in a long, long time”, despite the continued fall in free-to-air TV ratings placing further strain on its fractured relationship with Seven West Media. 

The network has suffered a 10% drop in average national audience for the just completed home-and-away matches, which Seven believes strengthens its case for a reduction in the A$82 million (US$ 62.666m) TV rights fee it pays to broadcast the game each year. 

It is the second year in a row Seven’s BBL average audience has declined since it and Foxtel claimed broadcasting rights for the domestic Twenty20 tournament from Channel 10 as part of the A$1.2 billion (US$ 917.057m) deal signed in 2018. 

Foxtel, however, this week announced a 28% increase in average numbers to 256,000, which includes a doubling of its audience on Kayo and other streaming services to 58,000. 

OzTAM figures show there was a small decline of six per cent in BBL audiences nationally, down from 988,000 to 931,000, but Cricket Australia (CA) says there has been 4% growth in year-on-year ratings once TV and streaming numbers are combined. 

Seven, however, has missed out, with national numbers down to 748,000, 14% lower than the 865,000 in its first season covering the league in 2018-19 and 10% down on last season. This has upset the cash-strapped network, which believes it has lost viewers to Fox. 

There was a national audience of nearly 950,000 for Friday night’s “eliminator” final between Adelaide and Brisbane, up 26% on the corresponding game in 2020 between Hobart and Sydney Thunder. There was also a considerable spike in free-to-air figures, which climbed 32% for a game not featuring a club from the two biggest markets in Sydney and Melbourne. 

Seven believes CA’s move to flip the international men’s season by starting with the white-ball matches, broadcast exclusively by Fox, instead of the Tests robbed it of the chance to attract fans to its BBL telecast. Instead, this opportunity was afforded to the subscription television provider. 

Though it is in dispute over the value of TV rights, Seven trumpeted the ratings success of the Test series, saying the matches had reached 10.8 million Australians. 

Seven has been critical of nearly every aspect of the BBL, from the quality of players, the lack of atmosphere from reduced crowds and the use of hubs as a result of border closures. 

CA, with its meticulous biosecurity protocols, has defied rapidly changing circumstances created by coronavirus outbreaks in several states to make good on its promise to deliver a full international men’s and women’s schedule and the BBL, which has three finals left to play. 

John Stephenson 


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