The 2021/22 Ashes series is being broadcast on BT Sport, marking a departure from the Sky Sports coverage which English cricket fans have become used to. The broadcaster snapped up the Ashes rights as part of a four-year deal with Cricket Australia.
We look at YouGov BrandIndex metrics to understand how BT Sport is perceived by cricket followers in Britain. This audience subset is carved out using a filter from YouGov Profiles, defining cricket followers as those who say they watch or follow the sport “on a regular basis”.
Has BT Sport’s capture of the rights been noticed by fans?
Let’s examine the brand’s Buzz scores. A TV channel’s Buzz score is a net measure based on responses to two questions: “Over the past two weeks, which of the following TV channels have you heard something positive about?” and “Now which of the following TV channels have you heard something negative about?”. By calculating the difference between these two scores, we create our Buzz metric.
BT Sport’s Buzz score has wavered over the last quarter, peaking at 7.4 in late September, but dipping to 0.8 in mid-November. But the trend again began tipping upwards in the lead-up to the Ashes, which began on December 8. As of December 9, BT Sport’s Buzz score among cricket followers stood at 6.0 points. For context, that compares to a score of 10.0 for Sky Sports among the same group.
Will fans migrate to BT Sport?
But has the capture of the Ashes rights made British cricket followers more likely to watch BT Sport? The YouGov BrandIndex Purchase Intent metric – which asks consumers which channels/services they are most likely to watch – indicates that this looks to be the case. Over the last quarter, BT Sport’s Purchase Intent scores have risen from 1.0 on September 10 to 6.3 on December 9 among this group. During the same period, Sky Sports’ Purchase Intent score has dipped significantly from 22.9 on September 10 to 10.9 on December 9.
The Current Customer metric, which asks consumers whether they have watched a TV channel over the past 30 days, allows us to examine the degree to which the intention has turned into action. BT Sport’s Current Customer scores among cricket followers have grown over the last month, from 24.9 to 27.3. Meanwhile, Sky Sports’ Current Customer scores among the same group have dropped two points to 34.
How was the coverage been received?
Some fans have been critical of BT Sport’s coverage of the series so far – the broadcaster has chosen to take a feed directly from the Australian host broadcaster, Fox Sport, rather than overlay its own commentary. But does this criticism just come from a vocal minority?
Well, when it comes to the Quality metric – which is a net score of those who think a brand represents good quality against those who think it represents poor quality – BT Sport’s scores have witnessed a somewhat steady decline over the past week, dipping from 18.7 on December 3 to 14.2 on December 9.
For the sake of a broader picture and for additional context, let us map out BT Sport’s Quality scores over the last six months against those of Sky Sports among cricket fans.
Generally speaking, the chart shows that the ratio of cricket followers who think Sky Sports represents good quality against those that think it represents poor quality stacks up more favourably than BT Sport’s.
While BT Sport was threatening to bridge the gap towards the end of October when it’s score rose to 24.5, it has steadily dipped since then.
Sky Sports’ Quality score peaked at 40.6 in mid-July, about six weeks into their start of the coverage of the international home cricket season (men’s and women’s).
It’s early days in the coverage and while BT Sport have experienced a visible decline in Quality scores, they have made gains in the Purchase Intent and Current Customer metrics. On the subject of quality, it is important to note that as an overseas broadcast partner, BT Sport has less control over the production of the Ashes broadcast down under compared to what Sky Sports does for its broadcast of England’s home series.
Additionally, challenges arising out of the pandemic have made it difficult for BT Sport to send a full-fledged commentary team to cover the tour. Even so, BT has developed a good track record in sports production since it entered the market in 2013 and will hope that its investment will pay off as the series develops and viewers become more accustomed to its coverage.
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