The ICC World Twenty20 cricket tournament will be aired live in Australia after all, following a last gasp deal signed by Fox Sports and Nine.
The tournament, taking place in India, starts on Tuesday, with Australia’s first game next Friday March 18.
Fox Sports will air all 35 of the games live, while Nine will also carry Australia’s games plus the finals. The tournament concludes on April 3.
Australia’s other group games take place on Monday March 21, Friday March 25 and Sunday March 27.
The time zone – five-and-a-half hours behind Sydney’s East coast – sees some games under way during Australian primetime. Two of the games start at 8.30pm eastern, the other two at 1am.
Another factor which may have limited the free-to-air networks’ interest in competing hard for the rights is that most of the contest takes place in the fortnight around Easter when the official TV ratings year is suspended. This covers March 20 to April 2, meaning that only Australia’s first game and the final take place during a ratings period.
Last month it was reported that the Indian TV network which holds the rights, the 21st Century Fox-owned Star Sports, had turned down the fees being offers by Australian networks.
Australia is in the same group as New Zealand, India and Pakistan, which will leave it with a tough task of being one of the two teams to advance to the knockout stage.
Fox Sports, which is owned by News Corp, will also carry ten women’s matches. Fox Sports CEO Patrick Delaney said in a statement: “Today’s announcement will ensure Australians get to watch every game of this month’s anticipated ICC World Twenty20 live, ad break free and in high definition. It’s a fantastic outcome for cricket fans, and for the sport. I’m sure the whole country will be right behind Steve Smith and his men as they aim to win their first ICC World Twenty20 title.”
Marks: Premium event
And Nine’s CEO Hugh Marks said: “It’s great to add this premium event to Nine’s expansive coverage of international cricket.”
This month’s contest is only the sixth time the tournament has been staged, with the next occasion being in Australia in 2020. Australia has never won the contest, coming closest in Barbados in 2010 when the team was beaten by England in the final.