England’s cricketers will tour Sri Lanka and the Caribbean this winter but they will not be accompanied by the iconic broadcast of the BBC’s Test Match Special. As they had threatened to for last winter’s Ashes, talkSport have secured the audio rights.
The boards of Sri Lanka and West Indies are cash strapped, while talkSport, backed by Rupert Murdoch, are not, leaving the BBC unable to compete in a battle of the highest bidders. For overseas tours, the sale of broadcast rights has nothing to do with the ECB, just the home board.
This is news that will disappoint many cricket fans. The last time TMS, which lavishly celebrated its 60th summer on air in 2017, did not win the rights was the winter of 2004-05, when talkSport broadcast England’s tour of South Africa. The BBC programme is known for marrying cricketing rigour with wit and whimsy and for listeners’ love of sending the broadcasters cake. They still hold the domestic audio rights until the end of summer 2019.
“I think the response to this speaks volumes,” tweeted Jonathan Agnew, the BBC’s cricket correspondent.
“I know our loyal TMS listeners will be very disappointed and I’m very sorry.”
Both talkSport and talkSport2 will carry the coverage of all England men’s internationals this winter. They are currently broadcasting the Indian Premier League.
Scott Taunton, chief executive of the Wireless Group, talkSport’s Murdoch-owned parent company, was in celebratory mood, promising “our own expert line-up of cricketing stars”, while the station’s website said the rights had been “snatched” from the BBC.
“Winning these prestigious rights is a great victory for talkSport and its first-class coverage,” he said.
“England’s overseas tours are sure to lure large audiences of fans as we cement talkSport’s position as the fans’ favourite for sporting news, analysis and live coverage. I’m delighted that we will be with England fans for every ball of the day throughout these winter tours, with our own expert line-up of cricketing stars.”
I think the response to this tweet speaks volumes. I know our loyal @bbctms listeners will be very disappointed and I’m very sorry. I hope I can still provide news coverage on BBC. To be clear, it has nothing to do with @ECB_cricket. SL and WI Board decision https://t.co/dMFh8fmbxL— Jonathan Agnew (@Aggerscricket) April 18, 2018
While vowing to freshen up cricket coverage, Taunton also took the opportunity to take a shot at TMS. “I think TMS has been doing the same thing for a long time and has been struggling to bring in a new audience, and we will certainly do that,” he said.
“We can broaden the appeal to a wider audience.”