In a first, women’s cricket out for value discovery

Published on Jul 04, 2022 06:58 PM IST
The first-ever ICC media rights sale for women’s cricket will serve as a test case for BCCI’s women’s IPL offering, next year
Image used for representational purpose(PTI) PREMIUM
Image used for representational purpose(PTI)
By, Mumbai

It will be cricket’s foray into the unknown as the International Cricket Council (ICC) gears up to sell media rights for women's cricket independently, for the first time. Women’s World Cup cricket history spans 49 years – it began 2 years before the men’s event – but a real shift in attention amongst the administrators became noticeable only on the back of the sell-out India-England 2017 ODI World Cup final at Lord’s.

Since that eventful evening at the storied venue where England edged out India, there have been three more world events (2018, 2020 T20 WC, 2022 ODI WC) whose success has prompted the ICC to try and give women’s cricket its own wings to fly. While the well-established men’s events pumped in nearly US$ 2 billion to the ICC coffers in the last rights cycle (2016-23), the expectations here are modest to begin with.

“It’s a fresh start. I don’t think we are under any kind of illusion that we will have similar values,” said ICC’s Chief Commercial Officer Anurag Dahiya. “Sure, a day will come, but we will have to work towards that. Currently, we may have a fraction of what we get for men’s rights. But that’s ok. A number of our member boards have only recently started to look at women’s cricket wholeheartedly.”

According to the ICC, the move not to bundle women’s media rights with men’s is to discourage broadcasters from looking at these rights as freebies or an obligation with little commercial value. “We think that the rights are worth its own value,” he added.

KEY INDIAN MARKET

The first bidding territory will be the Indian market for both TV and digital rights with the winners to be out in September. Cricket’s over-reliance on one market is not true for any other global sport. To give an idea, India’s first ever T20 World Cup final finish in front of a record Melbourne crowd in 2020 got a live average audience of 9.02 million in India. In Australia, the eventual winners’, it became the most watched women’s cricket match but the corresponding average audience number was 1.2 million. Fans watched 1.78 billion viewing minutes of live match action on TV of that game alone which comprised 35 per cent of the overall viewership for the tournament.

“The Indian market is massive. The overall number will always be much higher,” said Dahiya. "Some of the Indian women's matches are challenging few of the lower rated men's matches. It's getting to that parity which is quite awesome."

The ICC is not offering interested parties the option to bid for an eight-year cycle like with men's rights. "That’s born out of conviction that the value is going to be many times of what it is right now in 4 years,” he added.

Part of that conviction may be coming from the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI)’s publicised plans to get a full-fledged women’s IPL running from next year. “Research shows that we build a huge spike in viewership from ICC events. With the new calendar, we also have an event each year. But we are still limited. There is not enough bilateral cricket where we get to see the stars after that,” Dahiya said. “These domestic events can sustain the momentum that we build.”

While the ICC sees BCCI’s women’s IPL plans as complementary to its events, the upcoming standalone rights could also serve as a test case for the Indian board, given the same pool of broadcasters will be at play.

T20 FOCUS

What the ICC is making no bones about is in T2O being the format of choice in the women’s game. For the upcoming media rights cycle (2024-27), there is only one ODI event – the 2025 WC. The three others are T20 events – 2 World Cups and a Champions trophy. Even the U19 World Cups will be played in the T20 format.

“From a commercial perspective, T20 has got legs to bring in more fans. It also gives us a better pathway to grow in viewership numbers and helps emerging countries to take to the world stage,” said Dahiya.

In a 2018 ICC study, T20 came out as the most popular format globally with 92 % interest.

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  • ABOUT THE AUTHOR

    Rasesh Mandani loves a straight drive. He has been covering cricket, the governance and business side of sport for close to two decades. He writes and video blogs for HT.

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