Channel 4 has acquired the rights to show England’s Test cricket series in India in a deal that means Test cricket will return to free-to-air television in the UK for the first time in over 15 years.
Global rights holders Star Sports, owned by Disney, and Channel 4 have agreed a contract for the live broadcast of the entire tour – four Tests, five Twenty20s and three one-day internationals.
The deal represents a coup for Channel 4, who submitted their bid to Star Sports last week – one described as “compelling” by insiders – but they still feared being outbid by a late move from Sky or BT Sport. But no bid came, although one of the two subscription broadcasters could still come on board in some capacity, with the Star-Channel 4 deal said to be agreed on a non-exclusive basis that allows additional satellite and digital partners.
Channel 4 are confident that while three of the four Test matches start at 4am in the UK – the third Test is a day-night match with a 9am start – the national lockdown could mean big audience numbers generated by England and India supporters, as well as potential newcomers to the sport.
Channel 4’s Chief Content Officer, Ian Katz, said: “This is fantastic news for all cricket fans in the UK. It’s been a long 16-year wait for the return of live Test cricket to free to air television but it couldn’t have come at a better time. What better antidote to the lockdown blues than an England Test series in sunny India?”