Sport

WBBL: Network to show more women's cricket after ratings hit

All three of the Women's Big Bash League finals will be shown on television after Cricket Australia and Network Ten expanded the broadcast schedule to include the two semi-finals.

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Ten's delight at the strong response to showing last weekend's WBBL Melbourne derby on its main channel – it attracted 372,000 on Saturday afternoon, to be the highest-rating program in its time slot – has prompted it to follow suit for the January 16 Sydney derby and the final on January 24.

When CA and Ten reached their WBBL broadcasting deal in winter, it was limited to eight matches. 

That quota has been lifted by two, removing the anomaly that would have resulted in the two semi-finals not being broadcast. 

The semi-finals will be played on the afternoons of January 21 and January 22, and will be shown on ONE.

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While the decision could make high-placed teams such as Sydney Thunder and Hobart lose hosting rights – because the venues will depend on which men's BBL semi-finals they precede – CA wants to capitalise on the booming public interest in women's cricket.

Ten's head of BBL Dave Barham said he was stunned that in the space of a few weeks the network had progressed not only to moving WBBL matches to the main channel but also showing additional matches on short notice.

At 16, Georgia Wareham is the youngest woman to play in the WBBL.
At 16, Georgia Wareham is the youngest woman to play in the WBBL.  Photo: Simon O'Dwyer

"I think this year ... the BBL just seems to have exploded. It's quite remarkable," Barham said.

"How fantastic for women's sport. It's good for Ten, good for Cricket Australia."

Barham said he was eager to gauge interest in WBBL, given one of its rivals at the time will be the second week of the Australian Open tennis on Channel Seven.

The venues for the semi-finals and finals rest on results in the BBL. Barham was unconcerned by that lack of certainty, declaring: "It's only ... logistics, you can work it out."

Meanwhile, Cricket Australia and the Nine Network have undergone discussions to potentially show three women's Twenty20 internationals against India on the main channel. 

Nine showed the final Twenty20 match of the women's Ashes series during the winter, albeit on delay. It would be another major fillip for the sport if the Southern Stars were shown on the main channel.

CA's executive general manager of media, communications and marketing Ben Amarfio said the move was auspicious for the women's game, which continues to push for exposure. 

"This is another significant step forward for women's sport," he said. "There is a proven TV appetite, with the five WBBL broadcast matches so far this season averaging a TV audience of just under 250,000 across Ten's secondary and primary channels.

"We are committed to embracing all Australians and promoting cricket as being a female-friendly environment."

BBL manager Anthony Everard said the league was "learning on the run" given the rapid growth, and was striving to ensure demand for men's and women's Twenty20 was met.

   

10 out of Ten: Network Ten is rapt with its WBBL ratings, spearheaded by the likes of Melbourne Stars superbat Meg Lanning.

10 out of Ten: Network Ten is rapt with its WBBL ratings, spearheaded by the likes of Melbourne Stars superbat Meg Lanning. Photo: Getty Images


Network Ten Sport Executive David Barham was supportive of the move and is confident a similar size television audience would tune in the for promoted fixtures. 

"Network Ten is a big supporter of women's sport," Barham said. "We are putting the same resources into the WBBL broadcasts as we are for the men's games and it is certainly proving to be a hit. We are thrilled with the WBBL ratings to date and are excited to be working with Cricket Australia on this initiative. It is a very exciting time for women's cricket and women's sport as a whole."

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