Michael Cooper reflects on the pros and cons of Sky Sports’ impending coverage of the second Kia Super League in August.
On 1st February Sky Sports announced that they would be showing live coverage of the first six games of the second KSL season, as well as Finals Day: the first time that women’s domestic cricket will be shown live on UK television. The inaugural season was a success, attracting 15,465 people to the seventeen matches played, and live television coverage is the next step in the development of the league.
The games will be shown as part of a double header with a men’s NatWest T20 Blast match at the same venue, a tactic that has been used previously with women’s T20 games. It is also a tactic that was used in this year’s WBBL and one that proved highly successful. Twelve games were shown live on free-to-air TV, with nearly six million people watching the games and the final attracting a peak of 690,000 viewers. The games were also streamed live via the Cricket Australia website.
Live coverage on Sky will increase the visibility of the women’s domestic game as well as promote the game to aspiring female cricketers. A study by Women in Sport in 2015 stated that just over 10% of televised sports coverage, and only 2% of newspaper sports coverage, is dedicated to women’s sport. So with such a paucity of coverage of women’s sport, this news is a great shot in the arm for the development of the game. The double headers with T20 Blast games may also provide bigger crowds to see the games first-hand and provide players with the potential to compete in atmospheres similar to their male counterparts.
But there are downsides to linking the KSL so closely with the NatWest T20 Blast, the most obvious issue being ticket prices. People who want to go and see a KSL game within the double headers will presumably have to pay considerably more than they would pay to see a standalone KSL game; will this discourage people from coming to those games?
Another issue is whether this will impact the KSL brand? Whereas the Women’s BBL is an extension of the wider BBL brand, the KSL is its own product and should be marketed as such. It thrived in its debut season despite lack of coverage, as people were eager to see more women’s cricket after England’s dominant displays against Pakistan on home soil. The emergence of players like Tammy Beaumont, Lauren Winfield and Danni Wyatt is proof that the women’s game has stars in its own right, stars that deserve to have the stage all to themselves.
While Sky’s coverage of the KSL will undoubtedly prove to be a boon for the women’s game, one hopes that it won’t be in shadows of the men’s game for too much longer.
Michael Cooper tweets at @m_j_cooper82