U.K. free-to-air terrestrial broadcaster Channel 4 has won the rights to the upcoming England vs. India Test cricket series in a deal with Disney’s Star Sports.
This will be the first time live Test cricket has been on free-to-air television in the U.K. since Channel 4 showed England winning against Australia in 2005. Since then, test cricket, and indeed all international cricket broadcast in the U.K. has been the preserve of Comcast’s pay TV operator Sky. There was an exception in 2019 when England reached the finals of the World Cup, played in England, and Sky shared broadcast rights with Channel 4.
Earlier, the BBC covered all England home games for 60 years until 1999 when they lost the rights to Channel 4.
The series consists of four Test matches, to be played in Chennai and Ahmedabad from Feb. 5. All four matches will be shown live, ball-by-ball, on Channel 4 and streamer All4, from 4 a.m. Highlights of the day’s play will be available on All4.
Channel 4’s chief content officer Ian Katz said: “This is fantastic news for all cricket fans in the U.K. 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.
“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,” Andrews said. “We’re thrilled to have struck this deal with Star Sports.”
Variety understands that Sky and BT Sport were in the running for the series rights.
Captained by Joe Root, England are coming off a 2-0 series win over Sri Lanka which takes them to five consecutive overseas Test wins. They will face an Indian team who achieved the rare feat of a series win in Australia, with many first-choice players not available due to injury. India is led by Virat Kohli.