Live coverage of the next Ashes will be on BT Sport after the broadcaster unveiled a five-year deal with Cricket Australia to show its international matches exclusively in the UK from 2016.
The deal includes all one-day internationals and Twenty20 matches played in Australia including other series against New Zealand, South Africa, India and Pakistan.
It also includes rights to the Big Bash League and the women’s Ashes. BT has targeted premium cricket rights as a means to attract and keep subscribers in the summer months and already broadcasts the Caribbean Premier League T20.
This deal will be seen as a coup and a bloody nose for Sky Sports, which has marketed itself as the home of all international cricket. Sky’s exclusive deal with the England and Wales Cricket Board, for all international and domestic matches on home soil, runs until the end of 2019.
Sky could also lose the live rights to England’s series against Pakistan in the UAE in October. The rights have still to be sold and BT is understood to be considering a bid for the three Tests and one-day series.
BT’s deal with Cricket Australia also includes the free-to-air rights to international highlights and the Big Bash, as well as one “match of the week” in the domestic T20 league that will be shown on BT’s free-to-air channel.
“BT Sport is delighted to be adding international cricket to its line-up, and to be the new home of the next Ashes tour in Australia,” said Delia Bushell, the managing director of BT TV and BT Sport. “We will show live domestic games featuring the best players in the world during the Big Bash League and all Australian home matches for the next five years.”
The deal will mark an escalation in the competitive battle with BSkyB. Both companies are using sport as a means of trying to sign up triple play customers and battle for market share.
This season BT will be the exclusive home of Champions League and Europa League football after paying £897m over three seasons.
It has signed Gary Lineker and a host of other pundits to front its coverage and launched a new channel that costs £5-a-month for non-BT TV subscribers who also take its broadband products. It also has the rights to Premier Rugby, the FA Cup and 38 Premier League matches per season.
The competition between the two broadcasters has led to the value of live rights to Premier League football soar to £5.1bn under the new deal that begins from next season, with Sky retaining the lion’s share of matches.