On March 16, for the first time the world’s leading sports media,ESPN, carried a non-International game when it broadcast the 2014 American College Cricket National Championship Finals between Auburn University and the University of South Florida (in partnership with TV Asia). This was also the first time cricket in America was broadcast on ESPN.
This was followed on Sunday April 6, by the live telecast on ESPN2 of the 2014 T20 World Cup Finals, India vs Sri Lanka. Though not promoted, the Finals garnered impressive numbers, a total of 2.4 million viewers on an early Sunday morning, averaging 196,195 viewers per minute throughout the match. Additional numbers watched online as the game was also carried on ESPN3.
American College Cricket President Lloyd Jodah said, “We were pleased, since 2011, to assist in promoting the ESPN schedule of cricket and urged that the T20 Finals should be on TV. Last year, it was on recorded, so this year having it live, together with the recent ESPN3 broadcast of the American College Cricket Finals, are really 2 of the most important events for the game in the USA. The members of American College Cricket and TV Asia have played a significant role in getting us here, and we’ll continue to raise the game’s profile.”
Indeed, neither historic broadcast was publicized by Cricinfo, which is owned by ESPN. With its large fanbase in the USA, Cricinfo could have helped the numbers tremendously.
About the only promotion prior to the game fans saw was by American College Cricket, which since 2011 has been publicising cricket on ESPN among its members. In fact in the 2011 India Day Parade some American College Cricket players had the privilege of being on the ESPN float with the great Anil Kumble, and the World Cup Trophy !
As Jason Bernstein, Senior Director of Programming and Acquisitions, ESPN said,
“ESPN3 continues to build its position as a leader in delivering premier events from the world’s second most popular sport in the US. By carrying the American College Cricket National Championship Finals, we are able to deliver the sport nationally across a variety of platforms that are easily accessible to this passionate and fast growing fan base.”
As WISDEN UK & Wisden India said- “the most promising development in the USA has been the formation of American College Cricket in 2008….by Lloyd Jodah. Perhaps because of this….in 2011 ESPN bought the US broadcast rights to all future international cricket matches, including the 2015 World Cup.”
Many cricket fans said the only reason they knew the game was on TV was when they saw it posted on the American College Cricket fanpage, and Jodah’s profile.
To see the replay of the American College Cricket Finals, go to ESPN.com & search for ‘American College Cricket’