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Friday, October 16, 1998 Published at 08:10 GMT 09:10 UK

Sport: Cricket

Channel 4 wins rights to home Tests

The BBC will only retain radio coverage

Channel 4 has promised to revolutionise TV coverage of cricket after winning an agreement to become the principal broadcaster of England home Test matches.

The deal which the England and Wales Cricket Board says is worth £103m to the sport will mean the BBC will only be left with radio coverage.

The press conference in full from BBC Radio 5 Live
Coverage of all but one home Test match will be screened by Channel 4, while Sky Sports will provide live and exclusive action from the remaining game each summer from 1999 to 2002.

The Test matches - since 1938 until now the preserve of the BBC - will be part of a Channel 4 broadcasting commitment that will include early-evening international matches and other highlights.

Paul Newman: "The BBC has already shown its last match"
There is also an agreement to follow the progress of the NatWest Trophy and Channel 4 will also invest £13m in marketing and promoting cricket.

Sky Sports, in addition to its one Test match, will cover all home one-day internationals, the new 45-over National League, NatWest Under-19 internationals, crucial stages of the County Championship and one Vodafone Challenge Tourist match.

Sky will also show England's new annual triangular tournament that was announced on Wednesday.

The ECB chairman Lord MacLaurin greeted the new broadcasting deal as a "marvellous" one for English cricket.

Younger audience

The Chief Executive of Channel 4, Michael Jackson, said his aim had been "to secure cricket for the terrestrial audience".

[ image: Channel 4: Will share highlights with Sky]
Channel 4: Will share highlights with Sky
Mr Jackson added that his channel's coverage would seek to reflect "the younger multi-cultural audience of the game". There would also be attempt to win new fans for the sport.

He added that Channel 4's bid had been accepted because "our and the ECB's interests coincide. Not because of the size of our cheque book."

Trevor Bailey, talking to Radio 5 Live's Breakfast Programme
The former all-rounder and BBC Test Match Special contributer, Trevor Bailey, took issue with Mr Jackson's assertion that cricket was a "thrilling and exciting game".

"Cricket is not a thrilling and exciting game all the time. You couldn't have a match which goes on for five days, six hours per day, thrilling and exciting every minute.

"It's essentially a situation game and it's the situation which creates the excitement, not television," he said.

Viewers are promised that during test matches they will get about eight hours of continuous cricket a day. Channel 4 and Sky will share highlights from all matches.

Commercial breaks will be taken during "natural" breaks in play.

Gordon Farquhar summarizes the press conference
The channel's extensive commitment to racing means Saturday afternoon coverage will only be available to a minority of viewers via Channel 4B, the station's digital channel.

The NatWest final will be switched from Saturday to Sunday to accommodate more complete coverage.

'It was all about money'

Lord MacLaurin said: "We are sorry that our long and happy association with BBC television has come to an end but we need to relaunch cricket in a fresh and exciting way, and I am confident that Channel 4's imaginative approach can help us do that."

In a statement the BBC said it was "extremely disappointed".

[ image: Johnathan Agnew: End of an era]
Johnathan Agnew: End of an era
"We made a large increase in our offer, many times the rate of inflation," it added.

"But there was no way that could match the offer by Channel 4 who were wholly prepared to pay a significant premium.

"We offered the ECB a range of new programme, market and promotional ideas - but in the end it was all about money."

Jonathan Agnew reflects on 60 years of BBC cricket broadcasting
BBC Radio cricket commentator Jonathan Agnew said the deal meant the end of a golden era of sports broadcasting.

"The quality of coverage that everyone in the world, I think, has aspired to as far as the BBC's cricket coverage is concerned has come to an end at a stroke."

"At least you can say cricket will be remaining on terrestrial television."

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