Ask the common punter on the street and they’ll tell you one-day cricket has been pointless since Twenty20 hit town. Others will say it lost meaning when Australia stopped wearing yellow – but don’t expect the 50-over format to disappear from television screens any time soon.
The Big Bash League’s dream summer has many administering the last rites to one-day cricket. Yet there are compelling reasons why it can survive at least another decade.
Network Ten is the clear winner from last year’s broadcasting agreements.
The newcomer paid $100 million to exclusively broadcast the Big Bash, and their audacious bid to pinch international cricket forced Nine to pay $450 million to keep Tests and ODIs, significantly more than it had ever coughed up.
Viewership for the Big Bash has regularly nudged the million mark, prompting Ten chief executive Hamish McLennan to this week declare it the “deal of the century” on the back of 6.2 per cent advertising jump.
The Carlton Mid Series has so far also delivered for Nine, with the opening matches trumping Channel 7’s tennis coverage.
With young families infatuated with the competition, the BBL will continue to be a good earner for Ten.
However for Nine and its international coverage, that can’t be said with the same certainty.
The Ashes triumph has meant cricket dominated the headlines all summer, and we have seen the Aussie love of beating up on the Poms spill into the ODI series.
But Test cricket will inevitably slump back into its non-Ashes lull next summer when Australia hosts India in a four-Test series, a tournament that, due to the alien conditions the visitors will face, simply won’t be a priority for the sub-continent giants, and a walkover awaits.
Just four years ago Nine was forced to offer make-up spots to advertisers when the erratic West Indies turned the ODI series into a bore fest.
On the back of a dull Test series, audience figures were down 40 per cent and the 50-over format faced a very uncertain future.
It goes to show some international cricket summers are golden, other are complete flops.
The strength of the Big Bash means it’s now at the point where it could succeed as a stand-alone product. Next summer it won’t need a Mitchell Johnson moustache, English humiliation or a World Cup to perpetuate its appeal.
The question on everyone’s lips, and the elephant in the room for cricket authorities, is how long the 50-over tournament will survive?
While the common theory is that it’s dying a slow death of irrelevance, for now it remains, more often than not, viable for broadcasters, especially when you consider October’s India v Australia tournament final was the mostly watched television product on the sub continent in 2013.
Media analyst Craig Whiteman said Australia’s new world of free to air Twenty20 broadcasting would bring more players to the media rights table and that augured well for one-day cricket’s survival.
“People are coming after one-day cricket but the fact is, it remains too much of a cash cow for broadcasters to let go of,” Whiteman said.
“As long as T20 cricket brings a wider audience demographic to cricket, it can only be a good for one-day cricket in the long run.
“Yes, Twenty20 is a better TV product for viewers. It essentially cuts out the boring bits you often see in 50-over games. But the day-night format of ODIs helps the overall viewer figures for Nine.
“And summer is a valuable time of the year when networks jostle to promote their flagship programs for the year ahead.”
Everyone knows one-day crowds have dwindled for some time, with the MCG not attracting 50,000 to an ODI for six years.
But that is irrelevant as long as television ratings stay above the financial threshold.
The 50-over cricket doomsday will come when revenue from media rights shrinks below what it costs to run the tournaments.
For now, there is more cricket on TV than ever before yet people still can’t get enough.
If that remains the case when the current broadcast deals are renegotiated in 2018, Nine, Ten or whoever the winning bidder is, will fork out more than enough cash to cover the costs of one-day cricket’s existence.