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Last Updated: Friday, 14 July 2006, 15:56 GMT 16:56 UK
ECB wants active TV rights market
Former England cricket captain Ian Botham
Ian Botham is a member of Sky's commentary team
The England and Wales Cricket Board has encouraged terrestrial broadcasters to "bid aggressively" for TV rights when they next come up for grabs.

BSkyB holds exclusive rights for live coverage of all England's home games from now until 2009.

But MP John Grogan recently claimed only 200,000 were watching.

ECB chief executive David Collier told BBC Test Match Special: "We're seeing larger numbers than that... it's very misleading to take snapshot data."

Collier insisted the ECB was satisfied with TV audiences, both for Sky and for the nightly Test match highlights programme on Five.

"The broadcasters we've partnered with have done a superb job this year - have taken the game forward," Collier commented.

And he said he hoped broadcasters who did not bid for the rights last time would now view it as a mistake on their part.

"Clearly what we do want is to have a very thriving television market.

"We've tried to develop that, we've worked very hard with all of the broadcasters to develop that, and I think what you're seeing now is the television market emerging.

"From where we were a few years ago with a satellite market very much in its infancy, you're now seeing that getting to a much more mature state.

"You've only got to look at the Premier League with football and other broadcasters coming into the mix and I'm sure we'll see the same with cricket."

Steve Harmison and Andrew Strauss
The Ashes series attracted huge television audiences

The decision to award live rights to Sky was taken before last summer's Ashes series against Australia when Channel 4's coverage attracted audiences of up to 9m.

The BBC, which screened England Tests from 1938 to 1998, opted not to bid, although it retained live radio coverage rights.

Following England's win in the Ashes series, a group MPs stepped up their campaign to have Test cricket put back on free to air television.

And in a report published in February, the Culture, Media and Sport Committee accused the ECB of breaking a "gentleman's agreement" dating back to 1998 to keep Tests on terrestrial TV.

Culture Secretary Tessa Jowell said, however, that the government had "no remit to intervene" because cricket was not on the A list of sports events which are guaranteed free to air coverage.



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15 Dec 04 |  Cricket


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