Cricket fans face radio blackout for the first time in 17 years without ball-by-ball coverage of England Tests
- The two-Test series in Sri Lanka does not offer radio coverage per ball
- TalkSport has the first option for live radio rights, but has chosen not to include it
- The commercial broadcaster focuses its resources on longer journeys
Cricket fans are faced with the prospect of a radio blackout when England tours Sri Lanka next month, where talkSport rejects live commentary rights and the BBC lacks the means to get in at the last minute.
The two-Test series, which is part of the World Test Championship, will be the first England test that does not broadcast radio broadcasts by ball since Michael Vaughan visited Bangladesh in 2003.
TalkSport had secured the first option for live radio rights for the tour, with Tests in Galle and Colombo, but they chose not to include it after conversations with the host board.
Joe Root’s England takes on Sri Lanka the following month in a two-test series in Galle and Colombo
The commercial broadcaster remains committed to cricket commentary, mainly because their coverage of England’s 3-1 test profit in South Africa was widely praised.
But they focus their resources on longer journeys – allowing them to offer a wider range of programming – such as next winter’s five-test series in India. Talksport that ran away led the BBC to show interest in the rights for Test Match Special, but the talks with Sri Lanka Cricket have not progressed in recent weeks.
As it stands, there will be no radio commentary on the series in the UK that England has to win 2-0 to put pressure on India and Australia at the top of the World Test Championship.
Despite their eagerness to reclaim live rights for tours in England, BBC Sport operates under severe financial constraints in a time of job losses and program restrictions throughout the company.
Darren Gough and Matt Prior were part of the talkSport line-up in South Africa this summer
In an expensive sports year that will be dominated by the BBC’s extensive coverage of the Olympic Games, executives have decided that they do not have the means to safeguard Sri Lankan’s rights, although a last-minute deal remains a distant possibility .
The BBC is desperate to regain radio rights because they have been bruised by talkSport’s emergence to threaten their virtual monopoly on live cricket coverage in recent years, with their rivals commenting ball-by-ball on journeys to Sri Lanka and Western India over the past 18 months, in addition to South Africa.
The growing rivalry between stations is evident in much of their coverage this winter, with the BBC trying to lure listeners out of live commentaries from talkSport with their Cricket Social program.
This resulted in an analysis of a London studio with updates about the campaign in South Africa.