New Zealand Cricket is delighted with the outcome of its first season with new broadcast partners Spark Sport and TVNZ, hailing the combination of free-to-air and digital subscription as a ground-breaking arrangement which is taking cricket to not only more Kiwis, but demographics of New Zealanders previously lost to the game.
One year into the six-year deal with Spark Sport and TVNZ and the viewing figures are already reflecting an uptick in audience consumption, despite the challenges posed by the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic during the past summer’s international and domestic programme.
NZC’s latest state of the game census also shows participation from the grassroots level through to club cricket has significantly increased in correlation with the growth of people watching cricket in New Zealand.
Headlining the findings from the recent season have been statistics showing more viewers tuning into cricket than ever before; more people watching women’s cricket than ever before, more young people watching cricket, and more cricket being viewed by fans “on the go” – via a range of mobile devices.
Of particular note for the international game over the past summer:
• The six matches screened live on TVNZ 1 reached 1.86m viewers
• Nearly 240,000 Spark Sport viewers watched the BLACKCAPS and WHITE FERNS
• Test match viewing numbers were very encouraging
• There was an enormous increase in engagement, in terms of both highlights packages consumed, and average time spent viewing
In addition to these snapshots, there was a significant increase in viewership of both the men’s and women’s Super Smash.
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NZC CEO David White said the results exceeded expectations for the first year of the six-year agreement and is confident the reach will continue to grow in years ahead.
“By combining free-to-air and streaming, we’re now reaching more Kiwis than ever before and we have more new fans than we’ve ever had previously,” he said.
“We’ve also had excellent crowd attendances across the season, and we were well on track for sold-out crowds throughout the Australian men’s tour before COVID took its toll.”
Mr White said the results vindicated NZC’s decision to seek new and different audiences by switching to digital platforms and streaming services, in line with dramatically changing viewership and consumption habits.
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“We’re hugely encouraged,” he said. “The production was professional; the look and feel was fresh and appealing – it was everything we were hoping for.
“On top of the increase in viewership, our latest census is also indicating a significant increase in the number of New Zealanders playing cricket – including a 12 percent increase in the number of female participants, and a nine percent increase in the number of males.”
Head of Spark Sport, Jeff Latch, was similarly pleased with the season’s progress.
“To see these numbers in the first months of our six-year partnership is really encouraging, particularly when you consider sports streaming is still new to many New Zealanders and a sports streaming business like ours takes time to grow,” he said.
“It shows that New Zealand households are embracing streaming, which is consistent with the global experience, in which it is now the norm.
“We’ve unlocked a new younger audience with streaming given that close to half (47%) of our customer base is aged under 34 years old but are still catering to the traditional fan through TVNZ.
“A younger demographic embracing streaming is a big reason why many sports around the world are moving to streaming platforms and that’s no different to New Zealand Cricket’s vision.”
Mr Latch said when cricket switched from free-to-air coverage to satellite delivery (at that time, a new technology), it took a while for some households to get on board.
“What we’re seeing now is actually a faster shift,” he said. “Households are becoming familiar with new tech and ways to watch, having got their in-home connectivity sorted during the lock-downs.
“It’s exciting being part of this evolution and we’re confident that the progress we’ve seen over the past summer will continue over the years to come.”
TVNZ Director of Content, Cate Slater said having 1.9 million Kiwis watching international T20s on TVNZ 1 was a huge result.
“It shows us just how passionate viewers are about seeing talented New Zealand athletes play – particularly in primetime on free-to-air,” said Ms Slater.
“We’re proud of our Super Smash audiences too - there’s a big appetite for domestic matches and we think this will only grow in the years to come.
“This is a long-term partnership with an innovative cross-platform approach. We’re already excited about the 2021-22 season and seeing how our collaboration can further support cricket in New Zealand.”