It’s been barely a fortnight since we said that we’d definitely never mention the IPL again, at least until next April when it would be forced upon us like yet another angry letter from Noel Edmonds’ legal team. However, there was one thing about it that we did actually like and that we’d like to consider in a wider context – the live streaming of games on YouTube.
Attendances at the County Championship are a staple part of any conversation about the domestic game in England. While the archetypal comment is to point out that CC games are attended by one man and his dog, that’s not entirely true. Last year attendances were around the 500,000 mark and were up around 10% on the year before. It’s still not a massive number – there were 144 games last year, each lasting four days (in theory), so that’s 576 days of cricket with around 868 spectators for each day – but it’s a fairly solid base. Based on no numbers whatsoever, we reckon the majority of followers do so through other means: newspapers and smoke signals up north, computers and the internet down south.
For that majority, it’s just not practical to get to (m)any County Championship games. As well as the cost (which isn’t massive, but we are living in difficult times, when people have to work hard for every penny) there’s the issue of having to actually go to work when the majority of games take place. Instead, these people follow via the likes of Cricinfo or even lower quality cricket sites, such as 51allout. It’s not an uncommon thing to have the live scores on at work, nor commentary from Test Match Special when the internationals are on. Indeed, in the pre-51allout days the Bluth Company offices ground to an absolute standstill during the 2005 Ashes, with productivity hitting an all-time low. This is something that we massively applaud in all companies, bar our own.
So it’s clear that there is an audience for live cricket that isn’t able to attend in person. But at the moment, the options are very limited – perhaps two County Championship games a year are live on Sky, with a number covered by BBC local radio. But in almost all cases highlights are available later the same day via the ECB website so cameras are already there. Why not bridge the gap and broadcast the live coverage on YouTube?
It’s already something that’s been introduced for Sheffield Shield cricket in Australia, albeit in a slightly different way, with live streams available on the individual teams’ websites and the Fox Sports site. Having the equivalent coverage on YouTube would make things much more accessible, with the County Championship channel being the first port of call in the morning, to see which games are actually on, followed by the chosen fixture. When the rain starts at one, viewers could (and would) switch over to another.
Of course, the kingmakers in all this are Sky, who hold the rights to County Championship coverage and presumably won’t want to have their name attached to a ‘lower quality’ product. However, they simply aren’t going to broadcast every single day of the tournament, for so many reasons. For a start, imagine the suicide rate if Nick Knight was on all day every day. Instead they could ‘do their bit for the game’ and let us have our fun. And, understandably, games that were on Sky wouldn’t go out on YouTube.
It’s not as if we’re expecting Sky-quality coverage. All it needs is the cameras (which are already there, as we mentioned) and perhaps a bloke to operate them – at the moment if the ball gets off the square that’s tough. In terms of commentary here’s the really clever bit – why not strike a deal with BBC radio to use theirs? That would save us the hassle of having to have two tabs open at the same time.
Just like that the sometimes fascinating world of the County Championship would be open to a whole massive new audience, i.e. everybody in the entire world. And once they have a way in, what’s to stop them actually attending in person? It’s not unreasonable to suggest that had people been watching the dramatic conclusion at Durham a week or two back (as Steve Harmison no-balled Lancashire to victory in the final over) they may well have been moved to attend their side’s next game. Not all of them, but certainly some. Mainly to throw stuff at Harmison’s ridiculous face, of course, but that’s a perfectly acceptable reason in our book.
To us it just seems like an obvious opportunity to move the County Championship into the 21st century and get a whole new generation interested in the game. So feel free to write in to let us know what we’ve missed and why it’s such a bad idea. The best reason will win a bottle of gin*.
*bottle may be empty