David Prosser: Cricket facing a vicious bouncer

Indeed, the England and Wales Cricket Board will be much more upset about today’s ruling than Sky. The broadcaster would, of course, like to keep the Ashes, which won it 1.9 million viewers for the climax of the summer series. But a biennial sporting event does not have the commercial significance of, say, weekly Premier League football.

Nor is the fourfold increase in audience figures that terrestrial TV might deliver ? Channel Four got 7.4 million viewers for England’s Ashes victory in 2005 ? likely to be much comfort to the ECB. It earns no money from those viewers and there is no evidence cricket’s popularity is boosted by wider television coverage. In fact, attendances at matches have increased in the past two years, since Sky clinched all live coverage of the sport in this country.

All this said, Sky will be unnerved by another attack on its sports rights. It is already fighting a fierce battle with Ofcom, the broadcasting regulator, which is insisting that it sell on its sports coverage to rivals such as BT at much-reduced prices. Sky hopes the threat will disappear with a Conservative election victory ? the Tories are committed to abolishing Ofcom ? but it could do without more threats to its primacy.

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