The Men’s Ashes Series is fast approaching with the first Test Match between Australia v England starting on the 23rd of November at Brisbane’s GABBA ground. While viewers in Australia will enjoy LIVE and FREE coverage on Channel Nine (and streaming coverage via Cricket Australia’s paid live pass option), cricket fans in Japan (including many Aussie and English expats this author has spoken too) are waiting anxiously to find out how they can watch the Ashes coverage without the assistance of a VPN.
In previous years coverage of Cricket Australia matches such as Tests and the BBL were available to fans in Japan via India’s Star Sports Hotstar platform. While that coverage was on a 5 minute delay (you had to be in India to access live coverage), it was clearly better than nothing. This coverage has now come to an end since Cricket Australia signed a new broadcast deal for the Indian subcontinent with Sony. The new deal with Sony does not cover Japan.
This author reached out to Cricket Australia to see how Japan-based fans could access coverage and received the following response:
“…at present, we do not have an international broadcast partner for Japan and it is not covered by the CA Live App.
More information may become available over the coming weeks via www.cricketnetwork.com, or for more information on our broadcast partners, please visit www.cricketaustralia.com.au/about/partners/broadcast”
So with no broadcaster and no access via the CA Live Pass on the CA Live App is there any hope? According to a recent report in Australia’s Financial Review newspaper (AFR), “Cricket Australia is set for the first time to sell digital subscriptions for the broadcast of the upcoming Ashes series against England to consumers in south-east Asian countries such as China, Japan, Hong Kong, Malaysia and Indonesia via its Cricket Network portal.” Ben Amarfio, Cricket Australia’s executive general manager for broadcasting, digital media and commercial told the AFR that:
“We want to have a direct connection to our fans, and we think we know cricket pretty well. Not only are they large markets, there is also big Australian and English expat communities there… as well as Indian. So we are close to deciding to do that ourselves as we think there is a market for a subscription service. We charge $30 here in Australia but that is with a free-to-air presence in the market … that is not there [in south-east Asia] so we could charge more.”
Hopefully a decision will be made soon because as it stands there has been no official announcement and the Ashes are just around the corner.
CA’s free coverage of the Women’s Ashes via the CA Live App shows that that platform is an easy-to-use way for cricket fans in Japan and the region to get their cricket fix, following the game they love. Lets hope then that Cricket Australia decide to go with a direct-to-consumer offering for Ashes coverage (and coverage of the BBL etc.), so that CA can join other Australian sports like the AFL (WatchAFL app), Virgin Australia Supercars (Superview product), NBL (NBL App) and NRL (WatchNRL) in having a direct-to-consumer digital streaming product available to audiences in Asia.