The Woemn Big Bash League (WBBL) T20 has notched up a history as the tournament outclassed Australian football league in television ratings. The first two games of the tournament attracted three times higher audience than free to air A-League football matches this season.
The initial result has indicated that the tournament will be a huge success after the end of the season.
The inaugural match of the tournament between Adelaide Strikers and Brisbane Heat attracted an average national audience of 250,000 on Network Ten’s HD channel while the second T20 between Sydney Sixers and Perth Scorchers at the Sydney Cricket Ground on Sunday, had a national average of 183,000.
In contrast to the women’s T20 matches the free to air ratings of A –League have failed to catch the eyeballs. Broadcasters SBS’s main channel to SBS2 failed to attract eyeballs as much as WBBL matches. The average viewership of the matches is 78,000 for Friday night games and 62,000 per game on Fox Sports, with the demotion to SBS2 costing them about 110,000 viewers a week.
It is understood that the WBBL rating is well in excess of internal projections, which were believed to be as low as an average of 40,000 per game.
The main reason behind the success of WBBL is Australian Cricketers’ Association continous lobbying for female players to be covered by the memorandum of understanding as the men are.
Fairfax Media in May revealed that Cricket Australia and players union were concerned about the women’s game future. They convinced the broadcaster about the success. Cricket Australia has planned to draw, money from the games to pay players for the WBBL and to continue working towards them being paid professional level retainers. Negotiations for a women’s MoU are now set to being in the new year.
Meanwhile, the Network Ten are happy with the intial response. They are now started treating the games they cover exactly as they do the men’s matches that follow on their main channel.
“It’s a really positive start,” Ten’s head of sports David Barham said. “We’re really happy with the quality of the coverage and the quality of the cricket.
“One of the reasons it’s working is we’re putting full resources into it. There is no difference between the quality and a number of cameras we’re using in the women’s and men’s game.
“It’s probably the only women’s sport in this country with 30 cameras on it. It’s the highest quality coverage we can do.”
Anthony Everard, the BBL and WBBL, said that the early success of the new tournament on television indicated a significant move in the history of women’s sport.
“The interesting thing is women’s domestic cricket had never been broadcast live on free-to-air so we were not sure what to expect,” Everard said.
“We’ll see how the rest of the season goes, but we are delighted with the first two matches. It’s been a great year for women’s cricket already with the Ashes result in the middle of the year.
“But with the WBBL, we’re very single-minded about making cricket a sport for girls and inspiring girls to play the game. So to actually achieve these ratings is a really important step to showcasing the women’s game.”