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What happens off the field in Australian Sport

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State of the Game: Australian Cricket

Heading into the 2023-24 Summer season, Cricket found itself having to answer a number of questions – what is the BBLs place in the world with burgeoning developments in South Africa, and rumoured expansion of the IPL on the horizon. Can Test cricket remain relevant in the modern era of fast paced cricket and international T20 leagues?

The short answer is yes.

This summer, Seven’s Test and BBL coverage has reached a combined 10.5 million Australians nationally, including 7.1 million in the capital cities. The 2023-24 cricket season has made Seven #1 so far this summer, with a 43.2% all people commercial audience share – its highest ever share at this point in summer. Seven also ranks #1 in people 25 to 54.

Foxtel said its average audience across Foxtel and Kayo for Test cricket was 306,000 while its average audience for Big Bash games was 235,000.

WBBL

A record-breaking 95,124 fans attended matches throughout WBBL|09, making this the highest attended season since the competition went standalone in 2019. 

Each of the eight Clubs saw an increase in attendance at home and away season matches, with six Clubs setting a new attendance record this season. 

The WBBL|09 Final set a new attendance record, with 12,379 fans turning up to watch a thrilling end to the season at Adelaide Oval, making it the largest crowd ever at a WBBL game in Adelaide. It beats the previous record of 10,535 attendees at Adelaide Oval in WBBL|01. 

The Final crowd also marks the second highest attendance at a WBBL game since the competition became standalone for WBBL|05. At the WBBL Final, over 12,000 fans saw their Strikers win their second consecutive Championship, a crowd three times bigger than the WBBL team had played in front of in their home state

The Heat’s WBBL Final against the Adelaide Strikers had an average national viewership of over 410k, the highest rating WBBL match in two seasons.   

The Scorchers’ Finals pursuit was supported by average crowds of 2190 at the WACA Ground, alongside a 19% growth in TV audiences on last season.

Womens T20 International Series v South Africa

The first Women’s T20 between Australia and South Africa reached 1.11 million people on Seven – the biggest for a women’s international in Australia in the past 12 months.

BBL

Attendance

Cricket Australia believes their decision to shorten the Big Bash has been vindicated, with crowds at the halfway point of the tournament up 29 per cent on last year. Crowds across the first 20 games of this summer’s KFC BBL have averaged 17,473, compared with 13,530 in 2022-23.

Perth Scorchers and Sydney Thunder have also recorded their highest regular-season crowds.

The 2023/24 tournament saw crowds rise by 27 per cent and more than 800,000 people attending regular season matches – to an average of 20,184 per match. A total of 1,005,506 fans attended BBL across the summer, with the final crowd of 43,153 the biggest ever in Sydney in the history of the competition.

There were six sold-out matches in the regular season with another five games bringing in more than 40,000 fans which hadn’t been done since BBL|06. Brisbane’s crowds grew by 45 per cent this season.

20,919 fans attended the Heats Qualifier Final against the Sydney Sixers at a sold-out Gold Coast Stadium, setting a new cricket record for the Gold Coast. The Sixers also hosted two sell-outs, including the highest ever Big Bash crowd at the SCG of 41,027 for the Sydney Smash, and a record BBL attendance at the club’s regional match at C.eX International Stadium in Coffs Harbour.

Crowds flocked to the SCG with average BBL tickets sold to the iconic venue up 18% year-on-year (YoY). This year’s average SCG BBL crowd was 22,188.

The Scorchers home-and-away season saw 178,291 attendees flood through the gates of Optus Stadium at an average of 35,658 per game. This represents an extraordinary growth in average attendance on BBL|12 of 9,168 per game, or 35% larger crowds. Boxing Day’s victory over the Melbourne Renegades saw a record home-and-away Scorchers crowd of 42,226 in attendance, one of two occasions the club broke the 40,000 mark this season.

In total, 211,408 fans attended the six fixtures in Perth.

Adelaide crowds were a big contributor to the numbers – the Strikers New Year’s Eve crowd of 42,506 was the biggest of the regular season, only beaten by the Final, while 20,000+ attended all other completed matches at Adelaide Oval.

Members

The Melbourne Stars have broken their membership record for the second straight year, with 14,185 people signing up to see the Stars across WBBL|09 and BBL|13. The Stars also note that Fans have also voted with their eyeballs with Stars games rating 9.1 per cent higher on TV than BBL|12.

The Brisbane Heat also set a new membership record with 14,507 members signing on.  The Heat enjoyed corporate support to match with a 21 percent increase in corporate hospitality guests enjoying the season in luxury. 

The Sixers currently have 9,800 members, smashing the club’s previous record of 3,450.

The Scorchers experienced a 26% year-on-year growth in WACA and Perth Scorchers Membership, with over 17,000 Members forming the backbone of the club’s fan base.

Merchandise

Brisbane Heat merchandise also sold-out record levels, with BBL|13 representing the club’s biggest season in merchandise sales since BBL|07 while the Sixers report merchandise sales at their venues also increased by over 44% YOY.

TV Ratings

Total audience across all mediums averages 608,000 for the season, with an aggregated average audience of 26.2m including Finals.

The new season of the BBL got off to a cracking start with the Seven Network’s live and free coverage of the showdown between the Brisbane Heat and the Melbourne Stars at the Gabba reaching 1.9 million Australians. The Heat’s triumph over the Stars pulled an average of 504,000 viewers nationally and ranked #1 in its timeslot in all people, 25 to 54s and 16 to 39s. Seven was the most-watched network, with a commanding 41.1% national commercial audience share.

Despite a large number of rain-affected matches, BBL|13 reached 9.4 million people nationally on Seven, including 6.3 million in the capital cities.

The BBL’s national season average was 492,000 viewers. Seven’s BBL audience was up 3% nationally year-on-year and up 7% in the capital cities, including a 33% jump in Brisbane and a 10% lift in Adelaide plus a 2% increase in Melbourne.

The Final capped a strong year for BBL, with average crowd attendance numbers up 23.7% and Seven’s TV audience growing on the previous summer.

The Final between the Brisbane Heat and the Sydney Sixers in front of a record crowd at the SCG reaching 2.4 million people nationally. The Heat’s commanding victory over the Sixers drew an average audience of 738,000 viewers nationally and took the #1 spot in its hotly-contested timeslot in all people, 25 to 54s
and 16 to 39s.

The Heat averaged 634k viewers per game across the BBL season with streaming numbers through Kayo, Foxtel Go and Foxtel Now still to be added. Channel Seven’s free to air coverage was a particular highlight of the summer with Brisbane viewership for Heat matches increasing by 40 percent and metro TV numbers increasing by 8 percent.

FoxCricket/Kayo

Cricket fans have flocked to Kayo Sports this summer, with BBL13 already the most streamed series of all time ahead of the finals.,

Audiences on FoxCricket averaged 119,000 per session, while streaming audiences were estimnated to have average 107,000 for the season.

Fox Sports confirmed that more than 558 million minutes of BBL content before the finals – including live action, pre and post-game coverage and short-form content, including Kayo Minis – had been streamed by viewers. Overall, viewership data from games one to 37 of the BBL regular season indicated 16 per cent year-on-year growth.

The most streamed moment of the BBL season was Aaron Finch’s farewell match between his Melbourne Renegades and the Melbourne Stars, with more than 170,000 people streaming his final BBL innings. It was the all-time No. 1 streaming audience for a regular season BBL game.

Indian Television

More than 55 million viewers watched the entire BBL|13 season on Star Sports Network, 203% more than the previous season, making it the most-watched edition in India. Furthermore, the broadcaster has recorded 3.75 billion minutes of watch time, 105% higher than the previous season

Test Cricket

482,486 people attended 19 days of mens test match cricket over the 2023-24 season at an average of 25,394 per day.

Despite a largely one-sided summer of cricket, which included Australia’s 3-0 series win in the Tests against Pakistan and a 1-1 drawn series with the West Indies, four of the five Test matches delivered broadcaster Seven larger audiences than the previous summer. Shamar Joseph’s seven-wicket haul in Brisbane to help his team to a famous win made the final Test the most-watched cricket match of the summer, with an average daily audience of 534,000.

Seven’s coverage of the Australia v Pakistan and Australia v West Indies Tests reached 9.87 million people, including 6.64 million in the capital cities.

The summer Test coverage on Seven grew year-on-year, including a 4% lift in metropolitan markets, and had an average audience of 686,000 nationally and 443,000 in the capital cities.

The three Australia v Pakistan Tests reached 8.75 million people nationally (5.8 million in the capital cities), with an average national audience of 725,000 nationally. The average audience was up 3% nationally on the same Tests in the 2022-23 season and up 4% in the capital cities. The first Test in Perth saw a 29% increase nationally year-on-year (up 31% in the capital cities), while the third Test was up 3% nationally and 4% in the capital cities.

Australia v Pakistan –

The three tests had attendances of 349,252 at an average of 29,104 per day, peaking on Boxing day at the MCG with 62,167. A Test record crowd for Pakistan in Perth, 59,125 fans, went through the Optus Stadium gates over the four days of the Perth Test. The SCG reported 125, 292 spectators for its New Years Test – the best since the 2018/19 season.

The Seven Network’s live and free coverage of Australia’s historic victory over Pakistan in the West Test at Optus Stadium hooked viewers, reaching 5.97 million Australians nationally and averaging a daily peak audience of 894,000 viewers. With an average broadcast audience of 631,000 viewers, the West Test dominated its timeslots – ranking #1 in all people, 25 to 54s and 16 to 39s – and was up 24% on last year’s opening Test. Session two on the fourth day of the Test saw the biggest audience, with 885,000 viewers nationally and a reach of 1.8 million. 

The NRMA Insurance West Test linear TV ratings were up 22% on last year’s opening Test across Foxtel and the Seven Network, with streaming audiences across Foxtel Group up 43%. 

Australia’s triumph over Pakistan in the second Test at the MCG was a summer hit for the Seven Network, with its live and free coverage reaching 5.5 million Australians nationally and averaging a daily peak audience of 850,000 viewers. The second Test scored an average broadcast audience of 720,000 viewers. It dominated its timeslots, ranking #1 in all people, 25 to 54s and 16 to 39s. The biggest audience was achieved with the third session on Day Three, which had an average of  948,000 viewers nationally and reached 2.1 million.

Seven’s third Test coverage reached 4.9 million people nationally and had an average daily peak audience of 1.1 million. The third Test on Seven delivered an average broadcast audience of 644,000 and ranked #1 in its timeslots in all people, 25 to 54s and 16 to 39s. The biggest audience came during the third session on Day 1 with an average audience of 897,000 nationally and an audience reach of 1.9 million.

In India, the bilateral series between Australia and Pakistan witnessed more than 9.5 million viewers tune in for the three Test matches, a remarkable 54% increase compared to the previous Pakistan tour down under. 

Australia v West Indies

The West Indies Series was attended by 133,234 at an average of 19,033 per day, peaking at 29,216 on day 2 at the Gabba. The total match attendance for the Brisbane Test was 67,164, the largest for a Test Match in Brisbane against West Indies.

A roll-up of 23,602 was the best attendance ever for day one of a Test match against the West Indies at the Gabba.

Australia’s victory over the West Indies in the first Test of the series was a hit for the Seven Network, reaching 3.8 million people nationally and averaging a daily peak audience of 879,000. The first Test scored an average broadcast audience of 438,000 and ranked #1 in its timeslots in all people, 25 to 54s and 16 to 39s. The biggest audience came with the third session on Day Two, with an average audience of 657k nationally and an audience reach of 1.7 million.

Across the four days, the Seven Network’s live and free coverage of the second Test reached 6.7 million people nationally. The second Test scored an average total TV audience of 875,000 across the four days of sessions, The second session on Day Four scored the biggest total TV number, with a national audience reach of 2.2 million and an average audience of 1.4 million.

More than 1.4 million viewers watched during the final stages of the Test as West Indies quick Shamar Joseph and Australian batter Steve Smith fought to get their teams over the line.  

Media Deal

In January 2023, Cricket Australia announced that Seven Network and Foxtel will remain the sport’s broadcasters in Australia for the next seven years in a $1.5 billion deal. The $1.512 billion deal represents a payment increase of 10.5 per cent per year and commences in 2024.

Under the deal, there will be two five-test Ashes home series against England, and two five-test home series against India.

For the first time, all Seven games — all men’s tests and women’s internationals, 23 WBBL matches and 33 of the 43 BBL matches — will also be streamed on 7plus.

All games will be live on Fox Cricket and Kayo including  Australian men’s white-ball internationals and 10 exclusive BBL games.

The women’s international program will increase, with home multi-format series against India, England and South Africa in the first three years of the deal.

In 2022, Cricket Australia announced that Disney Star had acquired the rights to broadcast all men’s and women’s international cricket played in Australia into India on a seven-year deal. The deal, which commenced in 2023-24, will see Disney Star televise all internationals matches as well as the KFC Big Bash League and Weber Women’s Big Bash League into the world’s largest cricket market. 

Participation

A program record 66,186 kids have signed up for Woolworths Cricket Blast compared with 50,328 at the same time last season. This already exceeds last season’s total of 64,898 registered participants.  Growth amongst girls has been particularly strong with 17,842 registered so far this season compared with 11,713 at the same time last year – more than last season’s total of 17,814. 

Of the more than 1500 respondents nationwide, 26% of those with children aged 5-12 would consider enrolling them in Woolworths Cricket Blast, with the AFL’s Auskick program second with 13% and basketball’s Aussie Hoops at 12%. 

According to the 2023 Annual Report, Junior and Senior club registrations are up 1% on last year, and 3% on pre covid. Junior registrations are up 2.5%

Financial

Cricket Australia reported a comprehensive loss of 16.894m in 2023 with revenuies of 426m for the year.

  • Media, Broadcasting and Marketing $235.469m
  • Commercial Sponsorship $76.487m
  • Match Income $32.940m
  • Distributions $22.870m

References

Jason Lassey

Ive been collecting and publishing Sports related crowd, financial, and ratings data here and on twitter for about 12 years.

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