bbl score – BBL schedule – BBL turns corner back to growth after bargain rights deal

Batting heroics from Steve Smith and Usman Khawaja, David Warner’s return and huge crowds in Perth and Adelaide have helped the Big Bash League turn the corner back to growth – making Seven and Foxtel’s rights contract look like a bargain deal.

bbl score

Cricket Australia’s investment in getting Smith and Warner back to the BBL in particular has reaped plenty of benefits, including the most competitive tussle between the Twenty20 league and the Australian Open tennis in some years.

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But the health of the competition – likely to build again in future years when the league pulls back to 10 games per club in a search of quality over quantity – may leave some to wonder whether Seven and Foxtel’s cut-price deal for CA’s rights was sealed too hastily.

bbl schedule

OzTam figures compiled across the 12th edition of the BBL show that in purely linear television terms, the tournament has recorded a 3.2 per cent uplift on last season, while Foxtel’s streaming service Kayo has experienced a booming 40 per cent audience rise.

These numbers defy a widespread downward trend in broadcast audiences for the likes of AFL and tennis, each the beneficiaries of big money rights deals in recent years.

Combined audiences across Seven, Foxtel and streaming have regularly sat in the 850-900,000 range, while Friday night’s opening BBL final between the Sydney Thunder and Brisbane Heat managed to out-rate the tennis for national audience share without including streaming.

Audiences for the BBL trended up in the closing week of January up against the tennis, most likely aided by Smith’s pyrotechnics in scoring consecutive hundreds to blast the Sydney Sixers into second spot on the ladder.

The Australian Open rights deal, inked by Nine (publisher of this masthead) in November, is worth around $85 million a season. By contrast, Seven’s portion of the $1.5 billion deal shared with Foxtel is just $65 million a season for the BBL and WBBL, men’s Tests and women’s internationals.

The total annual value of the deal is around $214 million per season over seven years, compared to the $197 million per season mark struck in 2018.

That figure looks to be extremely favourable for Seven, particularly after the network fought an ugly public battle with CA about the value of its rights from 2020 to last year – going so far as to use the promise of dropping court action as part of its bargaining.

“We haven’t trashed cricket,” Seven’s head of sport Lewis Martin claimed when the deal was announced. “We’ve had our issues with Cricket Australia and we’ve reset. They were challenging times…but our love the sport and love for cricket… our strategy overall is to build a suite of Australia’s premier sports across 52 weeks of the year.”

Seven and Foxtel were essentially sealed as incumbent partners when, in quick succession, Ten and Paramount chiefs broke off negotiations with CA for the Christmas/New Year break, and then Nine claimed the rights to the Olympics after Seven effectively dropped out of the race.

In parallel, Ten and Paramount were subject to concerted criticism from Foxtel’s News Corp owners amid concerns about the network’s audience reach and technical troubles with its streaming arm. Unlike the AFL earlier last year, CA’s chiefs did not make a show of visiting the United States to talk with Paramount.

Broadcasters have been helped in presenting the tournament as a vibrant proposition by crowds that will, by the final next weekend, top a cumulative one million, effectively beating the turnouts for the past two seasons combined.

The biggest crowds of the season included 41,126 who watched the Perth Scorchers’ defeat of the Sixers on Saturday night, 40,373 at Adelaide Oval to watch the Strikers on New Year’s Eve, and 38,757 to see Smith and Warner go head-to-head at the SCG.

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