No one can doubt the success of the Big Bash League since it arrived on channel Ten in 2013. The Free-to-air broadcaster bought the rights for the BBL for $100 million across five season. That price was called the ‘deal of the century’ by tv executives now knowing the ratings it attracted nightly. This year the rights are back up for grabs with Cricket Australia expecting around $300 million partly due to the success over the past five years but also based on the announcement the league will increase by 14 games next season with it being a full home and away fixture.
As a new league, the BBL has taken some time to work out the perfect middle spot of amount of games to be played. In the first season 28 matches were played. 32 took place from seasons two through to six and this season (BBL 07) increased to 40. With games on just about every night including days where test matches are also being played the competition can feel quite bloated and often die out towards the end with many of the top players off on international duties and the overseas players being replaced. That’s why the decision to further increase the season by 14 matches seems risky.
On one hand more games means more money for Cricket Australia and with it likely meaning more finals which is needed but on other, excitement should be at it’s highest to towards the end and with it seeming like the future of the tournament will be a finish well into February, it’s hard to not think BBL 08 will out stay its welcome.
For a tournament that has to factor in international commitments, school holidays, mens and womens matches and the obvious issues like stadium allocation and evenness of fixtures, Cricket Australia mostly do a good job. However, to fit this all in more and more double headers are being played with most of these being taken place on Saturdays afternoon leading into Saturday night matches a time where most viewers and attendances would play local cricket during the day themselves, possibility a reason ODIs are never scheduled on Saturday.
With an increased fixture and a higher cost for the broadcast rights, it’s seems likely Channel 10 or whichever free-to-air channel gains the next BBL TV rights will have to share it with Pay TV company Foxtel. This clearly would further hurt the tournament turning it from a family, summer nightly comp to one on free and paid channels, day and night matches at times a lot of people can’t watch it and being extended across from mid December to mid February.
The truth is that although the BBL is partly meant as a pathway to international Cricket, it’s also meant to be a standalone competition. Leagues such as AFL, NRL and the A-League priories building up a finale that feels earnt leaving fans wanting just a little bit more. The BBL meanwhile struggles to keep momentum partly due to inconsistency of player availability but mostly due to Cricket Australia’s decision to continually stretch out the season hurting the product on show.