Got a text this afternoon from a friend: “NZC is killing cricket”.
That was her immediate response to the news Radio Sport won’t be broadcasting free-to-air domestic cricket anymore. After 20 years, it’s over.
I agree with my friend on this. Obviously, I have a bit of a conflict here. I’m a cricket fan but I’m also an employee of NZME, the company that owns Radio Sport.
So you’d be forgiven for thinking I’ve got sour grapes on behalf of the company, trust me, I don’t. I’m speaking as a cricket fan.
This is a really bad call by New Zealand Cricket. NZME insists that it put a substantial offer on the table but it wasn’t enough: NZC wanted more.
Did NZC get greedy?
Hot off scoring a huge deal with Spark for the TV rights, did they think they could do the same with the radio rights? Maybe they did, but they need to get real.
Radio Sport already runs the cricket at a loss. It already pays more for the rights than it earns from the rights, that’s not sustainable.
No one else can do cricket like Radio Sport. Who else is going to turn over an entire radio station to cricket for a five day test match? Radio Sport can because it is the only dedicated sports station in the country.
Maybe someone can run the cricket on an internet radio stream, but what does that mean for anyone listening outside of their homes where they’ve got a good internet package?
Builders, anyone in a car, people pottering around down in the back yard?
What are we going to do? Take out laptop to listen to the cricket? Run down the data and battery-life on our phones?
Ultimately, people are going to stop listening aren’t they? Because it’s going to be too hard.
I would be ok with this if it was just radio, but it isn’t. It’s going to be too hard to watch on TV too. You want to watch a domestic test match from April? You’re going to stream it on Spark which means using five days’ worth of data.
Short term: you and I suffer. Long term: cricket suffers.
Because if you and I aren’t watching and listening because it’s too hard, our kids aren’t watching and listening, and that’s how a country falls out of love with a sport.
Because out of sight, out of mind.