Test cricket returns to Channel 4 after 16 year absence

Free-to-air terrestrial broadcaster Channel 4 has won the media rights for the England cricket team’s upcoming Test tour of India.

The last minute deal was signed shortly before the first Test match of the series is set to be played on Friday in Chennai.

Channel 4 last showed Test cricket in 2005, but a one-off deal with Sky in 2019 led to the World Cup Final being shared between both broadcasters.

Research following the event by the England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB) suggested that around a third of the audience were watching professional cricket for the first time, generating new public interest in the sport, which for many years has been surpassed by football and rugby in terms of viewership.

According to The Guardian, the network has reached an agreement with global rights holders Star Sports, and will provide coverage of all four Test matches in addition to five Twenty20 and three one-day international fixtures.

Channel 4’s bid – submitted to Star Sports last week – was described as ‘compelling’ by insiders, but the possibility of a late move by Sky or BT Sport posed a major challenge.

Now that those fears have been put to rest, Channel 4 is hopeful that the matches will attract a considerable audience due to the ongoing UK lockdown, as well as in the form of new cricket fans drawn in by the excitement of the World Cup final, despite three of the four Tests starting at 4AM and the fourth starting at 9AM.