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Channel 4 cricket coverage is back!

Last week, Channel 4 were announced to have bought the rights for the England cricket series in India, marking the return of test cricket to terrestrial screens for the first time in almost 16 years. It marked a significant moment for cricket fans (especially those without a Sky Sports subscription) and Channel 4 alike.

Channel 4 got their first taste of what the return of cricket to their schedules could bring when they co-screened the Cricket World Cup final with Sky in the summer of 2019. The game saw a combined viewership of over 8 million across all channels, with a peak audience of 4.5 million on Channel 4.

With no UK broadcaster holding the rights for the India series, Channel 4 spotted an opportunity and swooped at the final hour. They stepped out of their comfort zone in doing so; having to hastily assemble a studio and team within a couple of days and ripping up their daytime TV schedule – resulting in a lot of hasty amendments to spot schedules. Based on early viewing audiences it looks as though their step back into the world of cricket may well pay off.

Looking back at the overnight linear viewing figures of the first four days of the first match this week, the figures are strong. Sunday saw the biggest audiences, with an average of 800,000 adults watching throughout the coverage and a peak just shy of 1.5million viewing in the last session.

The other days were only slightly lower and total viewing over the four days of cricket has represented a week-on-week increase in Channel 4 impacts of 345%, across the 0600-1159 timebands. Furthermore, Channel 4 have seen 84% greater viewing figures in comparison to Sky’s coverage of the Sri Lanka vs. England second test match just a few weeks prior.

Where it gets interesting is when breaking it down by demographic segment. The cricket coverage has brought with it huge shifts in audience type for Channel 4 – attracting a more male, more upscale and older audience in comparison to normal. The ABC1 audience has made up 68% of viewing, compared to 41% in the week prior; 80% of viewers have been male (46% the week before) and 64% have been aged 55+ (39% the prior week). All audiences have seen viewing increases though, with 80% more 16-34s tuning in to Channel 4 and 63% more women.

All told, Channel 4 are off to a good start. Three more test matches lie ahead and with England getting off to an excellent start in the first match and the likely increased following this will bring, ratings may well keep growing. Furthermore, the third test will be a “day/night” test match, meaning the days will start at the considerably more social hour of 9am UK time, rather than 4am, and therefore will be running across even higher rating hours in the afternoon.

All Response Media viewpoint

The cricket coverage on Channel 4, and the viewing audiences it is attracting, presents an interesting situation that will affect advertisers in a multitude of ways. Many enjoy the efficient acquisition of customers from the typically lower-rating morning programming on Channel 4 and the change in these spots may have an impact on results in February and March, if not carefully monitored. Equally, the impact is not contained to just Channel 4 itself as many of the programmes that would normally run in the mornings on C4 are being displaced to other channels – Sunday Brunch was moved to E4 this week and correspondingly drove twice the ratings that the same timebands saw in the previous week, which again may have a knock-on impact on advertisers buying on E4, or into Sunday Brunch specifically – for better or worse.

For those looking to reach an upscale audience though, the cricket offers an almost unparalleled opportunity to reach these individuals within daytime hours and on Channel 4. Very few programmes over the last month within daytime hours, or on Channel 4 have offered as significant reach against an upmarket male audience – one that can be difficult to reach at times.

It adds to a trend that we have been keenly observing over the last year, that daytime can offer reach opportunities on par, if not more than those available in peak hours. This Morning has continued to deliver huge ratings on ITV1, remaining over 35% up year-on-year (YoY), having seen a huge boost in ratings during the first lockdown. By utilising these programmes and timebands, TV reach efficiency can be maximised for any given budget.

Hopefully, this is just the start of further diversification of content and audiences from Channel 4, and the other broadcasters, but for now there is certainly an opportunity worth making the most of in the coming weeks.

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