Cricket viewership rises in rugby dominated New Zealand ahead of ICC WTC Final – Cricket may be the most popular sport in the sub-continent, this is not the case in many other countries. However, in New Zealand, the trend is changing. In New Zealand, cricket is traditionally the third most followed sport after rugby and netball. But thanks to fine on-field performances of Kane Williamson & Co including reaching the 50-over World Cup final in 2019, more New Zealanders have watched cricket than ever as per official broadcaster Spart Sport and digital partner TVNZ.
In the first year of New Zealand Cricket’s six-year deal with Spark Sport and TVNZ, the data revealed increased interest in cricket over the last year with women’s cricket becoming a popular sport. The increase in interest was propelled by the emergence of on-the-go platforms on mobile devices.
New Zealand Cricket credited free-to-air and digital subscription for the growth of cricket in the country, calling the two a “ground-breaking arrangement which is taking cricket to not only more Kiwis but demographics of New Zealanders previously lost to the game” as per a press release.
As per the data, 1.86 million viewers watched the six matches streamed live on TVNZ while Spark Sport recorded 240,000 viewers in the summer. Amongst the series, the recent T20 series against Australia was the most popular one, attracting 1.24 million viewers as Kane Williamson led thrashed the visitors. Women’s cricket has also continued to grow with 840,300 fans tuning in to watch the final ODI in Brisbane against Australia Women’s team.
New Zealand Cricket CEO David White said the numbers exceeded his expectation and said he is confident about continuous growth.
“We’re hugely encouraged. The production was professional; the look and feel was fresh and appealing – it was everything we were hoping for. On top of the increase in viewership, our latest census is also indicating a significant increase in the number of New Zealanders playing cricket – including a 12% increase in the number of female participants, and a nine per cent increase in the number of males,” White said.
Interestingly, despite many New Zealand cricketers playing franchise T20 cricket, Test cricket remains as popular. While NZC did not reveal the numbers, it said that the 2nd Test against Pakistan in Christchurch was the most popular match while the country’s domestic T20 tournament Super Smash also saw an increase in viewership. It should also be noted that Kane Williamson’s New Zealand have qualified for the ICC World Test Championship final, continuing Test cricket’s growth
Head of Spark Sport, Jeff Latch, was also encouraged by the numbers, pointing out live-streaming services as a game-changer. “To see these numbers in the first months of our six-year partnership is really encouraging, particularly when you consider sports streaming is still new to many New Zealanders and a sports streaming business like ours takes time to grow,” he said.
“It shows that New Zealand households are embracing streaming, which is consistent with the global experience, in which it is now the norm. We’ve unlocked a new younger audience with streaming given that close to half (47%) of our customer base is aged under 34 years old but are still catering to the traditional fan through TVNZ,” he added.