The final ball of the 2015 Ashes series might have only been thrown yesterday in a competition which saw England mastermind a slaying of Australia on home turf, but the broadcasters are busy planning for the next time England and Australia square up. After a several year run which has seen BT Sport go from nothing but a glint in the eye of the UK telecommunications company to a huge threat to Sky Sports' dominance in the field. It's been an impressive run, one which has seen them pick up the rights to plenty of Premier League games as well as Champions League football, Bundesliga, Serie A and countless others. It's also recently launched the UK's first 4K TV channel, and has begun broadcasting sport in Ultra-HD quality.
Needless to say then, Sky won't be happy to hear that BT have won the rights to broadcast the 2017-18 Ashes series. It's a heavy blow for Sky, who have held on to the rights for over a decade and just this year launched a major advertising campaign to promote the series. With all that good work done, Sky will feel robbed to have lost out to their nearest and biggest competitor. A report in the Telegraph suggests that BT won with a bid that was £20 million higher than Sky's.
Included as part of the bid, BT also landed rights to Australian International Cricket and KFC Big Bash League matches from 2016 to 2021, which will include the five crucial Ashes matches in late 2017. Interestingly, this deal means that BT will become the first broadcaster other than Sky to show overseas England cricket matches in 27 years.
Cricket Australia Executive General Manager of Media, Communications & Marketing Ben Amarfio said: “BT Sport put forward a highly compelling bid for the rights to broadcast cricket from Australia to audiences throughout the United Kingdom. They are uniquely placed to become one of the UK’s largest sports channels and we think cricket can provide the content and opportunities to help them do just that.
“With more cricket content now available via BT Sport, free-to-air television and through our digital platforms, we are making the game more accessible to more people. The principle of taking the game to more people is very important in our efforts to grow the game.”
It's another deal which displays that BT aren't content to stick with what they've got and are ready to fight Sky on all fronts in an effort to drive Sky customers towards the exit door, via the Sky cancellation number. Whether they can do that with the relatively small number of Premier League games and total lack of Football League games, though, is yet to be seen. What is for sure though is that BT are hell bent on bringing the fight to Sky, and winning over customers who thought that the upstart channel had nothing of interest to offer them.
Sky haven't yet made a statement on losing these rights, but based on their reaction to losing Champions League football to the broadcaster, it might be an interesting one.
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