Tom Harrison claimed that a long-term project at the England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB) is to “migrate” new spectators gained from the first season of The Hundred to other formats and mainly Test matches.
More than three years after its commencement, the inaugural edition of a 100-ball competition was postponed by 12 months because of Covid-19. A double-header of men’s and women’s finals was set up at Lord’s over the past weekend.
According to the ECB, a total of 16.1 million people tuned in to watch the competition on television, which Sanjay Patel, managing director of The Hundred, pointed out is “more eyeballs than the men’s World Cup in 2019”.
The ECB says 57 per cent of viewers had not watched any live cricket this year but the tournament’s critics believe this month-long extravaganza at the height of summer has pushed other formats to the edge.
ECB chief executive Harrison acknowledged there are a “huge amount of learnings” to take into next year. Harrison also thinks that The Hundred can occur alongside and encourage new supporters to take in other formats, including five-day Tests.
“What we’re trying to do with this audience growth that we have is to migrate that audience through our formats to take them to Test cricket, to make sure we’re underpinning Test cricket for the future as well,” Harrison said.
“The whole point of growing the base of the sport is so that you protect the things that are most precious to us and that is county cricket, that’s Test cricket for us.”
“The premium reason The Hundred has had a successful start is because of the caliber and quality of cricket on the show because it’s electrifying content, it’s stuff that people want to watch.”
“Test cricket is the pinnacle of that electrifying content that you see played out around the world, players are still judging themselves by their performances in the Test format predominantly, we should celebrate that.”
Viewership for Saturday’s finals emaciated at 1.4 million viewers for the women’s game, with the men’s fixture illustrating a peak audience of 2.4 million.
The ECB exposed 510,000 tickets had been sold, with analysis showing 55 per cent had not bought one in this country before, while attendance across the competition is the highest for a women’s cricket event globally ever.
A crowd of 267,000 have been there for the women’s games, thrashing the previous record of 136,000 at last year’s T20 World Cup in Australia, and concluded in 17,116 fans watching the Oval Invincibles defeat the Southern Brave on Saturday.
Most matches over the past few weeks, counting Saturday’s showpiece, have been staged as double-headers because of the coronavirus pandemic, which is prearranged to continue into next year.
The issue of pay inconsistency has been a prickly subject, with women pulling in-between between UK£3,600 (US$4,900) and UK£15,000 (US$20,500), while the lowest contracted males were paid UK£24,000 (US$32,900), with those in the top bracket earning UK£100,000 (US$137,200).
“We’re going to do some work on that,” Harrison said. “That’s all part of the review but certainly I think there’s going to be some good news for women’s salaries, in line with the trajectory that we want to take the game.”
Patel revealed that the ECB was on course to meet its expected revenue goal of UK£50 million (US$68.6 million), giving the governing body a surplus of around UK£10 million (US$13.7 million) to put “back into the game”.
“This year so far has been a very good recovery,” Harrison added. “There will still be a significant impact, particularly across the county game. But it feels like we are emerging from the Covid crisis.”