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SBD Global/April 8, 2014/Media

ESPN Broadcasts Live Cricket Matches With Hope Of Drawing In U.S. Audience

ESPN is hoping that a U.S. audience "will warm up to another sport that uses a bat and a ball to score runs in innings but that isn't baseball: cricket," according to Liana B. Baker of REUTERS. The cable network "decided to air live cricket for the first time on one of its fully-distributed cable networks, ESPN2," which reaches a U.S. audience of 96 million homes. ESPN "is experimenting to see if the sport can gain traction" in the U.S. ESPN faces increased U.S. competition bidding for sports rights and for viewers with new entrants such as Fox Sports 1, "so it is casting a wider eye on other sports." After learning that the 10 most highly viewed Internet streams on its Internet-only network, ESPN3, were of cricket matches, regularly beating out college football and basketball, "executives considered putting it on TV." ESPN Int'l Exec VP & Managing Dir Russell Wolff said, "We think cricket has the chance to get out to a broader audience and be on a bigger platform." While ESPN has shown all three versions of cricket online, including the format that lasts five days, "it has made bets on the rights for the newer, faster growing formats." The T20 format "that will be shown on ESPN2, introduced about 10 years ago, lasts about three hours" (REUTERS, 4/5).

SOMETHING NEW:  Coverage of the ICC World T20 Finals match between Sri Lanka and India aired at 9:00am ET on ESPN2 live from Bangladesh and was hosted in-studio by sportscaster Barry Wilkinson and former cricketer and analyst Colin Croft. Wilkinson opened the coverage, “Hello to all of our friends watching, especially in the United States on ESPN2.” After a 40-minute rain delay, broadcaster Sanjay Manjrekar said, “We are in Dhaka, a city that loves its cricket. The home team has disappointed them, but they have come out in large numbers supporting the other teams. … You will see, as the match starts, every seat in the house will be taken. … A wonderful atmosphere (and) this is a good stadium this year” (“ICC World T20 Final,” ESPN2, 4/6).
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