Chennai clash will be first Test match on UK terrestrial TV since the 2005 Ashes
Test cricket is set to return to free-to-air television in the UK for the first time in more than 15 years, after Channel 4 struck a deal with Star Sports, the global rights holders, to broadcast England’s Test series against India.
The four-match series, which begins in Chennai on Friday, will be the first Tests to be shown by a terrestrial broadcaster in the UK since Channel 4 themselves hosted the fifth and final match of the 2005 Ashes.
However, the broadcaster did make a return to cricket in a one-off capacity for the 2019 World Cup final, when England’s thrilling Super Over victory over New Zealand at Lord’s attracted 15.4 million viewers over the course of the day.
Subsequent ECB research suggested that a third of that figure was watching cricket for the first time, and with the UK currently under national lockdown due to the Covid-19 pandemic, Channel 4 are understood to be confident of attracting significant interest in a series that will be on air from 4am until past midday – and also features a day-night fixture that will begin at 9am UK time.
Channel 4’s Chief Content Officer Ian Katz said: “This is fantastic news for all cricket fans in the UK. It’s been a long 16-year wait for the return of live Test cricket to free to air television but it couldn’t have come at a better time. What better antidote to the lockdown blues than an England Test series in sunny India.”
Channel 4’s Head of Sport Pete Andrews and Penny Mills, Head of Sports Rights, led the broadcaster’s negotiations to secure the deal.
Andrews added: “We’re delighted to be showing live Test cricket on Channel 4 again and given the recent performances of both sides this series is set to be a cracker. We’re thrilled to have struck this deal with Star Sports.”
Aside from the last Ashes series in Australia in 2017-18, which was shown on BT Sport, this will be the first overseas England Test not to have been shown on Sky Sports since their coverage of England cricket began on the tour of the Caribbean in 1989-90.
Channel 4 will take the world live feed commentary from Star, and is expected to announce its studio presentation team in due course.