BT Sport wins 2017/18 Ashes rights

BT Sport is to become the home of the 2017/18 Ashes series and will show all Australian home cricket internationals exclusively live in the UK from 2016 to 2021 after winning a five-year rights deal.

In another major rights coup for the broadcaster, cricket fans will only be able to see England defend the Ashes on BT Sport when they travel down under in 2017/18, as part of 210 days of international Australian cricket to be shown on their channels from next winter.

BT Sport will show all Australian Test matches, One Day Internationals and T20 Internationals played in Australia, the rights to which have been held by Sky Sports for the last 24 years.

In addition to the five-match Ashes Test Series against England in 2017/18, multiple series against world leading nations such as New Zealand, South Africa, India and Pakistan will also be broadcast on BT Sport, while the deal also includes coverage of the Big Bash T20 tournament and women’s cricket.

BT’s sensational deal with Cricket Australia brings Sky Sports’ decade-long stranglehold of live cricket coverage to an end, having broadcast every Australian Ashes series exclusively live since the channel’s inception in the early 1990’s.

The 2017/18 Ashes will be the first major England overseas trip not to be broadcast live on Sky Sports, a period stretching back to the tour of the West Indies in 1990, which was the first to be televised live on UK television.

In addition to the Ashes and Australia’s home internationals, the hugely successful Big Bash League T20 competition will also be broadcast exclusively on BT Sport, which features a plethora of international stars such as South African legend Jacques Kallis and former England batsman Kevin Pietersen.

Women’s cricket will also be covered by BT Sport for the first time under the new deal, featuring the 2017/18 Women’s Ashes and the new Women’s T20 Big Bash League.

BT has also acquired a free-to-air rights package that includes daily highlights of international matches and the Big Bash League, as well as one Big Bash League ‘match of the round’ broadcast live and free each week, meaning the tournament will be shown live on free-to-air television for the first time in the UK.

As part of the agreement, BT Sport customers in the UK will also be able to live stream all the action via the BT Sport App and website.

Delia Bushell, Managing Director of BT TV and BT Sport, said: “BT Sport is delighted to be adding international cricket to its line-up, and to be the new home of the next Ashes tour in Australia

“We will show live domestic games featuring the best players in the world during the Big Bash League and all Australian home matches for the next five years.”

The deal with Cricket Australia is in addition to BT Sport’s coverage of the annual Caribbean Premier League T20 tournament, which stars the likes of West Indies star batsman Chris Gayle.

The rights reportedly cost BT Sport £80million and Cricket Australia’s executive general manager Ben Amarfio said BT Sport’s reach into 5.2million homes influenced the decision, which will signal a new era in Australian cricket broadcasting.

“Ashes cricket is one of the world’s great sporting rivalries and often regarded as the pinnacle of Test cricket,” said Amarfio.

“We are delighted to be partnering with BT Sport in bringing these matches and many others involving the Australian cricket team to British audiences.

“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 in the UK 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.”

Sky faced little competition when they signed their last England domestic deal with the ECB in 2012, but since that time BT Sport has emerged to change the sports broadcasting landscape, winning exclusively live UEFA Champions League rights from Sky in a deal worth nearly £1bn in autumn 2013.

Sky’s current exclusive deal with the ECB, for all international and domestic matches on English soil, runs until the end of 2019.

At the moment, BT Sport only has the rights to show the Caribbean Premier League, but from the end of next year they will show all of Australia’s home international cricket for five years.

Sky Sports will cover its last Australian home internationals this winter when the hosts play New Zealand and the West Indies, plus the 2015/16 Big Bash league.

Amarfio thanked Sky for its contribution to the broadcast of Australian cricket in the UK over the past two decades: “We would like to thank Sky Sports for its commitment to Australian cricket over several decades where it produced an informative, innovative and entertaining broadcast of the game that was truly world-class.

“We have enjoyed a great working relationship and are indebted to them for their investment in and support of the game.”

The loss of Australian cricket, including the marquee 2017/18 Ashes series, will be a blow for Sky Sports, but they retain rights to the next home Ashes series in 2019 and that summer’s ICC Cricket World Cup in England.

BT’s new agreement will start in October 2016 with Australia’s home Test series against South Africa.

The broadcaster’s growing sports portfolio includes all UEFA Champions League and Europe League fixtures, as well as 38 Premier League games this season. That figure will increase from 2016-17 season to 42 PL matches, compared with Sky Sports’ 126 games.