Martin Devlin: Cricket commentary ending on Radio Sport is devastating

Author
Martin Devlin,
Publish Date
Fri, 21 Feb 2020, 11:38AM

Martin Devlin: Cricket commentary ending on Radio Sport is devastating

Author
Martin Devlin,
Publish Date
Fri, 21 Feb 2020, 11:38AM

No more live cricket coverage on Radio Sport.

That news yesterday received like a rearing vicious bouncer aimed fair at the bonce, leaving our workplace as glum-faced as it was following last year's Super Over loss at Lords.

Like most upon hearing the news we were shocked,  stunned, struggling to process what had just taken place. Believe me, none of us saw this coming or knew it was about to happen.

If you know anything about the history of the radio station, live cricket coverage was why Sports Roundup (in Apr'98) morphed into this full time station called Radio Sport. The initial acquisition of nationwide frequencies was to ensure cricket could be heard and enjoyed the length & breadth of the country.

Now, of course, nothing ever remains the same, especially in this industry. The landscape is as competitive, dynamic and ever-changing as any business you could care to name.

When I first started to take an interest in cricket it was all live on TV1. Back then we only had two TV channels and ALL the sport from Wimbledon to the FA Cup final, All Blacks to Olympic Games was on TV1.

Over the years, cricket was taken off free-to-air TV and we paid to watch it via PPV Sky Sport. However the end of this summer season will mark the first time in this country the sport will not be available FTA via radio.

Make no mistake, this is purely and utterly a business decision on both sides. Translated, it's a buyer vs seller situation where the two parties (NZC & NZME) cannot agree on a price. And this do remember happens everyday in our lives with houses, cars, employment contracts, whatever.

Is it a shame? Yes. Is it a worry for the sport's future? Yes. Is it the end of an era? Yes again.

What happens from here is anyone's guess and I'm guessing NZ Cricket will announce its new "You pay for only what YOU listen to" alternative option sometime between the last T20 here vs Australia and October when the next season officially starts.

As far as NZC now sits, apart from a fabulous balance sheet, what is the long-term strategic plan to ensure current consumers stay committed while increasing growth, interest and participation among the younger generations? David White, NZC CEO, maintains that "the future of the sport in broadcast terms is all about live streaming".

That might be so, let's wait and see. Although whether committing to that medium won't also kill both viewership and participation numbers within a decade or two does also remain a valid and worthy concern.

Right now, even 24 hours later, my own feelings are probably best expressed in true cricket parlance. I feel like I've walked out to the crease and been bowled first ball by an absolute jaffa. Didn't see it coming, middle stump ripped right out of the ground,

I'm walking back stunned, confused, shaking my head and wondering out loud "how the heck that was allowed to happen".