It's the cricket season again and fans of the beautiful game can look forward to much leather on willow action as the 2013 Ashes are being live streamed by YouTube for the first time. The England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB) have confirmed that they have partnered with YouTube to provide full and free coverage of this summer's Ashes to 53 countries - 42 in mainland Europe and 11 in Latin America.
The service will only be available to users in regions where there is no broadcast offering, so despite the tournament being held in England, viewers in the UK and Ireland are excluded from watching (although full coverage is available via Sky Sports who hold the exclusive rights and highlights are shown on Channel 5 every evening). Ball by ball reportage is also available via the BBC website and the BBC iPlayer Radio app.
The five-game test match series (always England v Australia) kicked off earlier today from Trent Bridge in Nottingham.
ECB Chief Executive David Collier said of the deal:
“This is the ECB’s first venture into live streaming of cricket online, so is groundbreaking territory for us. We receive numerous requests from cricket fans in regions where there is no broadcast TV offering, and therefore we are delighted that many will be able to enjoy this Investec Ashes Series. It is also important that we play a role in the expansion of the game to countries that do not traditionally play nor watch the sport.”
Senior Director of YouTube, Steve Nuttall said:
"Our partnership with ECB expands the reach of the Investec Ashes Series to new countries and to YouTube's younger, connected audience. We're delighted to see more top-quality cricket on YouTube."
Coverage is available on the official ECB Youtube Channel
The ECB has already taken steps to shut down over 700 websites that have provided illegal streams of cricket in the past. They hope that the new venture will curb the worst of the copyright infringements and promote the game across the world.
2013 marks a big year for sports on YouTube. It has already brought us live streaming of Wimbledon, Major League Baseball and there will be coverage (U.S. only) of the 34th America's Cup. It is also been brokering deals with the likes of the NBA for live streaming rights. Figures from Nielsen suggest that YouTube reached more Americans aged between 18 and 24 than any of the cable channels available so an increase in live sports coverage seems inevitable, especially now the subscription model has gone live so providers can charge for the privilege of watching.
If you don't know the rules of cricket there are a huge number of resources online to help you out - it really isn't as complicated as it first appears and the Ashes, one of the most exciting and eagerly anticipated events in the sporting calendar, is a good place to start. It's basically a gigantic grudge match between the two nations so tensions run high and it's ridiculously easy to get sucked in from day one.
For those who still associate the game with long British summer evenings and short wave radio, enjoy the following from Stephen Fry and Hugh Laurie: