US cricket TV rights up for grabs ahead of World Cup –

With an upcoming T20 World Cup being co-hosted by the US, the International Cricket Council is looking to grow the game in the US and is hoping to find the right media partner to help them. Last week, ICC executives toured the country speaking to broadcasters at a moment of rapid change for the industry.

Both the TV and digital rights from 2024 will be up soon, although it’s entirely possible for a broadcaster to get exclusive rights across platforms. For example, CBS, ESPN and NBC — all of which met with the ICC last week — are each trying to expand both their traditional networks and newer streaming services. The ICC also met with Amazon, which already broadcasts cricket in other countries, and Willow TV, a pay-TV channel focused on the sport.

Previously, the ICC sold its rights globally, although it’s now trying to strike deals on a territorial basis, hoping to capitalize on streamers looking for an engaged audience.

“This market has never been able to take a single pack of cricket rights and say, ‘Okay, I’ve got a big tent stick with that… to build a subscription strategy every year,'” said Anurag Dahiya, ICC’s chief commercial officer in an interview. “It gives us the opportunity to work directly with broadcasters that broadcast our rights in different territories and that helps us to promote the sport much better.”

The ICC organizes traditional one-day Test cricket events as well as shorter 50-over and T20 events. Averaging more than 70 matches a year, this range of rights also includes the growing game of cricket for women. This spring’s Women’s Cricket World Cup set records for digital engagement. The ICC has raised more than $2 billion for its global rights over its most recent eight-year cycle (2015-2023). The US is currently the ICC’s third-largest audience market after India and the UK, and officials said it could soon move to second place.

William Mao, senior vice president of global media rights consulting at Octagon, estimates that there are 20 to 40 million cricket fans in the US. More important than those numbers, he said, is that the sport offers a defined customer base.

“The key question for a company to answer, especially on the streaming side, is to be able to say, ‘Hey, I can help you ride that many incremental subs.’ Incremental is the key element,” he said. “If you’re a sport like cricket, which is able to clearly index certain demographics, and also doesn’t have a lot of overlap with other sports fans, you have a unique and credible way of saying, ‘We’re going to be able to re-drive audience for you.’”

The value of cricket in the modern streaming world was highlighted in India last month when Viacom18 and Disney split $6.2 billion worth of rights for promotions in the Indian Premier League.

Here, ICC may need to balance a quest for presence, particularly on traditional cable networks, with a quest for a more unified home at a streaming service committed to making the most of real estate. Most recently, MLS prioritized the latter option and consolidated its local rights so it could put all of its content on a yet-to-be-launched exclusive Apple service.

“If someone likes to run a big digital advertising campaign,” Dahiya said, “then I think that ultimately can have more value than running it on a cable channel without too much talk about it being available.”

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