Up early this morning with the Royal London One-Day Cup on in the background. The match is on ESPN3 which I have legal access to because I am a Comcast internet subscriber, even though I don’t subscribe to Comcast cable television. It’s great to be able to watch the match, though it is bittersweet as it also whets my appetite for even more cricket, but sadly the game can be tough to find here in the states.
ESPN3 carries a fair amount of cricket — though mostly now it is just home England matches and domestic English county cricket, and the occasional odd Twenty-20 tournament. It’s fine. No complaints. The picture is good and it’s better than a dodgy internet stream.
For other cricket, I have to turn to Willow.tv for $15 a month. They carry most Indian and South African tours and home matches, and the IPL too of course. Looking forward it looks like they have the Ashes this winter, so I will probably resubscribe around Thanksgiving (I have cancelled and resubscribed probably five times). There’s also a new player in town, Sling TV. I am not sure how it works, though it appears I need a Sling TV subscription AND a Willow.TV subscription. That’s highway robbery. But if they continue to be the provider for ICC tournaments, I will probably pony up — especially for the 2019 World Cup.
And that’s it. Other than dodgy internet streams and the Willow TV channel which — I think — is only available on Dish Network or something like that — that’s how we all watch cricket here in the United States. It’s not ideal, and I wish it was better, but there are options available and with a little money I can see most international cricket. I also have an adaptor so I can hook my Macbook up to my TV so I am not forced to watch with headphones at the kitchen table like I used to have to do. I do wish that I only had to pay for one service, or that ESPN3 would carry more matches, but it’s hard to complain. I mean, not 25 years ago, people in the USA relied on week old newspapers, long distance phone calls and IRC bots to access the cricket scores. We’ve come a long way.
Outside of the television, I of course have access to cricket coverage the likes of which the world has never seen. Match summaries and ball by balls and commentaries and online newspapers from all over the world — not to mention a billion different cricket blogs to choose from. It’s a true fountain of knowledge and one not to sneeze at. Further, I can listen to all sorts of cricket via internet radio — Test Match Special being just one example. At work this summer I will have the sounds of the England v South Africa test series in my ears most days.
All in all, it’s not so bad.
I bring this up because the ECB just signed another TV contract, and the big news is that a few matches will once again be available on terrestrial television. James Morgan of The Full Toss has a great write up on the deal. Sky will continue to air all England internationals, with the exception of a couple T20s starting in 2020 (haha) and a handful of women’s matches (which is GREAT for the game) that will be on the BBC. The bigger news, for me, is that the deal is worth over a billion dollars. A billion dollars! For a game that is supposedly not just dying but stone dead. One can hope that the ECB uses the influx to grow all formats of the game at all levels for everyone — men, women, boys, girls and everyone in between. But we know that won’t happen. They will use the money to promote profit friendly T20 tournaments across the land. And gosh I really can’t blame them. As much as I think it is the wrong call on their part, and is a terrible thing for the game, why would they invest in two formats that don’t make any money? Take the final I am watching now. It’s the final of the one day tournament, at Lord’s, featuring a team that plays right down the road, and there are whole stands completely empty. Sure it’s the first innings, and it might fill in, but still.
Morgan’s other issue is that only having T20 available on terrestrial TV will make it more difficult for young people to be exposed to the longer forms of game — just as he fell in love with the game watching Test matches on the BBC during his summer holidays in the 80s. And I get that — I fell in love with soccer because the 1986 World Cup was on over-the-air TV in the US. But that’s nostalgia talking. People — especially young people — access entertainment and sport in a million new and different ways. A lot of households don’t even have televisions anymore. Gone are the days of kids flipping on the telly on a summer Tuesday afternoon and watching the cricket. Even if it were available on the BBC kids still probably wouldn’t watch it. Because there are literally dozens of other options for entertainment: iPads, laptops, on demand. In the 80s in England there were, what, two TV channels? Now most people have dozens. And so, again, I don’t blame ECB for taking Sky’s money.
All of that said, I wish cricket was available on free TV for everyone in every part of the world. Because as much as I enjoy reading about cricket, or listening to cricket on the radio, or writing about cricket, I love — LOVE — watching cricket. A cup of tea plus a good cricket game is heaven on earth for me. And I am not that much different than other people, and so I think lots of people who would never even think about the game could fall in love with it too, if just given the chance. But we all know that’s never going to happen. And so I will take what I can get. And Surrey vs. Nottinghamshire in a One Day final at Lord’s on my laptop is — all things considered — pretty great.
The England-South Africa Test series starts on Thursday. Going to trying and write about it every match day. We will see what happens.
Meanwhile the World Cup is ongoing in England and it’s still early days but it looks like it’s India or Australia’s tournament to lose. I hope that England can crawl back from an early defeat to India and make a good run. During the Champions Trophy I mentioned how an England win would be great for the game in that country, and the same holds true but even more so for an England Ladies win — because it would get people into the game that never would have given it a second thought before. This is similar to how people in Minneapolis who would never watch basketball get excited when our WNBA team, the Lynx, do well. The Lynx winning is great for basketball in Minneapolis, and an English ladies World Cup win would be great for cricket in England.
Until Thursday then.