Sky Sports has extended its partnership for live rights to screen English cricket until 2019, increasing its unrivalled commitment for a further two years.
The broadcaster has reached an agreement with the England & Wales Cricket Board (ECB) to enact its option to continue its coverage of England home fixtures, county matches, women’s and age-grade cricket, taking Sky’s existing deal for exclusive live rights into its 14th year.
Sky’s previous rights deal for England and county cricket, which was worth an estimated £280m, covered the five-year period from 2013 to 2017, which the option to extend for a further two years.
Subscribers will be able to enjoy a further two years of the channel’s domestic cricket coverage, which received a BAFTA award in 2014, until at least the end of the decade.
The deal includes all of England’s Test matches played at home, including series against Pakistan and India in 2018 and the Ashes in 2019, all One-Day Internationals and T20 matches, including Australia in 2018 and Pakistan in 2019, as well as selected women’s and England Lions matches.
Sky Sports will also continue its commitment to screen at least 60 days of domestic cricket each summer, covering each of the major competitions and featuring every county.
Alongside the continued TV commitment, the deal also enables the ECB to continue its record levels of investment at all levels of the game, which since the exclusive Sky rights deal began have helped to transform the sport on pitch and off, including England becoming the number one Test team in the world.
Barney Francis, Managing Director of Sky Sports, said: “We’re passionate about our commitment to the game, including the men and women’s England teams and the County set up, and we’re delighted to extend our partnership with the ECB.
“Since 2006, our viewers have enjoyed the incredible successes of the England team, including three Ashes victories, winning the ICC World Twenty20 and becoming the number one Test team in the world.
“We look forward to continuing the partnership until at least 2019.”
In the summer of 2014, Sky Sports marked its 200th live England Test match during its coverage of the fifth and final Test match against India at The Oval.
Sky began showing England Test matches exclusively live at home from 2006 onwards after the ECB made a controversial decision to award them exclusive live rights, a move which still divides some cricket fans to this day as it marked the end of live free-to-air Test cricket in the UK after 70 years.
Despite criticism from some quarters over the decision to put England cricket exclusively behind a paywall, there is now a general acceptance that the ECB has to maximise revenues from television rights, which keeps county cricket alive and funds England teams across all levels, as well as grassroots programmes.
Brian Havill, the ECB Acting Chief Executive, added: “We are delighted that Sky have taken up their option to extend their broadcasting contract with the England and Wales Cricket Board to 2019 as it demonstrates their belief in the ECB as well as the international, women’s and county game.
“This decision continues Sky’s unwavering commitment to cricket in England and Wales at every level for a further two years.
“In the last decade their loyalty and quality as a broadcasting partner has been beyond question and has benefited the game in so many ways.
“In that period there has been an unprecedented level of investment in the county game, including facilities, the grassroots, particularly coaching, and of course the England men’s and women’s teams.
“Now in this, Sky’s 10th season as the exclusive live broadcaster, that determination to support the game shines through with the announcement that every ball of the England women’s Ashes series will be shown live.”
This extension further cements Sky Sports’ position as the definitive home of cricket, with the network owning virtually all the sought-after UK TV rights for the sport.
As well as England internationals and country cricket, Sky’s year-round global cricket schedule includes live action from Australia, India, New Zealand, South Africa and the West Indies, IPL matches for the first time in 2015 and ICC cricket rights, including the Cricket World Cups in 2015 and 2019.
Sky Sports will also screen live coverage of an England women’s Test match for the first time in 2015 after agreeing a deal to showcase the entire Women’s Ashes series throughout July and August.
Since 2006, when Sky became the ECB’s principal live TV broadcast partner, over £150m has been invested to help strengthen the game, by improving international, First Class and local facilities, as well recruiting over 45,000 more grassroots coaches and over 2m state school children to take up the game.
During this time, the men and women’s England teams have enjoyed unrivalled success on the pitch, with the men becoming the number one Test side in the world, winning three out of the last four Ashes series, and the ICC World Twenty20.
The investment has allowed the England women’s team to be awarded professional contracts for the first time, as well as also reaching number 1 in the world and winning the World Cup.
The Sky Sports cricket team expert features six former England captains, several Wisden cricketers of the year and World Cup winners, and together they played 769 Tests scoring 33,440 runs and taking 1,694 wickets.
David Gower, who has been at the helm of Sky Sports’ presenting and commentary team since joining from the BBC in 1999, is joined by regulars Sir Ian Botham, Nasser Hussain, Michael Atherton, David Lloyd, Andrew Strauss and Michael Holding.