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ECB blow as under 25s pick Sky Sports over BBC for England’s Twenty20 matches against Pakistan

The ECB’s broadcast strategy and development of the controversial new Hundred competition is being questioned after Sky Sports attracted more viewers aged under 25 than the BBC for England’s Twenty20 matches against Pakistan last week.

Sportsmail can reveal that while the BBC had a higher audience than Sky overall, the subscription service gained more young viewers in a blow to ECB strategists.

The ECB’s laudable desire to take the sport to a new audience has been instrumental in much of their recent policy, particularly their courting of the BBC and creation of the Hundred which, after being cancelled this summer due to Covid-19, will finally launch next summer.

The governing body have consistently argued that only by embracing the greater reach of terrestrial television could they grow the game, and the BBC’s preference for a new format featuring city-based teams over a second domestic T20 competition was crucial to the development of the Hundred.

England’s four-wicket win over Pakistan in the second T20 at Old Trafford last month was the BBC’s first live match for 21 years, with the broadcaster trumpeting a peak audience of 2.7million and average of 1.7m as a considerable success, but it appears they failed to gain much interest from the nation’s youth.

Sportsmail can reveal Sky’s coverage of the third T20 two days later gained a higher audience among under 25s, with 137,000 youngsters watching that match, compared to the 123,000 who tuned into the BBC.

Sky also broadcast the second match in the series live at the same time as the BBC, attracting a peak of 706,000 and an average of 417,000. 

In another setback for the ECB, the terrestrial audience on the BBC for last Sunday’s T20 international against Australia declined from their Pakistan fixture, dropping from a peak of 2.8m to 2.2m, with the average down from 1.7m to 1.5m.

England’s series-clinching win against the old enemy was the biggest cricket game on the BBC since the 1999 World Cup, but does not appear to have attracted casual viewers, particularly among the younger demographic. 

In contrast, Sky’s viewing figures increased from the Pakistan to the Australia matches, with their peak audience rising from 700,000 to 1.1m. The demographic data relating to that audience has yet to be revealed, but will be closely analysed by the ECB.

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