The groundswell of public support for the Rebel Women's Big Bash League has promoted Network Ten to move two of the three remaining televised WBBL|01 matches to the network’s main broadcast channel, while it will now also broadcast both semi-finals.
The network had not planned to televise the two WBBL semi-finals, to be played as double headers with the KFC Big Bash League on January 21 and 22, but it confirmed today the matches would now be added to the schedule, bringing the total number of matches shown by the network in WBBL|01 up to 10.
This follows the decision by Network Ten to move last Sunday’s women’s Melbourne derby between the Stars and Renegades to Ten’s main channel for the first time, and comes as a ringing endorsement of the popularity of the women’s game among the Australian viewing public.
That match was played in front of 12,901 spectators and recorded a peak television audience of 439,000 viewers and a record national average of 372,000.
The decision means the Sydney derby between the Thunder and the Sixers on January 16 will be broadcast on Channel 10, ahead of the first-ever WBBL final on January 24.
Quick single: Women's Big Bash a ratings hit
Network Ten Sport Executive David Barham said the decision was made following the success of last Saturday's Melbourne derby.
"Network Ten is a big supporter of women’s sport. We are putting the same resources into the WBBL broadcasts as we are for the men’s games and it is certainly proving to be a hit," Barham told cricket.com.au.
"We are thrilled with the WBBL ratings to date and are excited to be working with Cricket Australia on this initiative. It is a very exciting time for women’s cricket and women’s sport as a whole."
Watch: Wyatt steers Renegades home in thriller
The Sydney derby will see some of the biggest names in the game go head to head, with superstar allrounder Ellyse Perry captaining a Sixers side that also features Australian wicketkeeper Alyssa Healy alongside Southern Stars great and Network Ten commentator Lisa Sthalekar.
The Thunder are one of the favourites to win the inaugural tournament, thanks largely to big-hitting West Indian skipper Stafanie Taylor, Southern Stars batter Alex Blackwell and exciting young left-arm seamer Lauren Cheatle.
"This is another significant step forward for women’s sport and in particular women's cricket in Australia," said Ben Amarfio, Cricket Australia's Executive General Manager for Media, Communications & Marketing.
"We want as many people to be exposed to the game, so to have another two WBBL matches move to Ten’s primary channel is a great endorsement for the growing appeal of women's cricket.
"There is a proven TV appetite with the five WBBL broadcast matches so far this season averaging a TV audience of just under 250,000 across ten's secondary and primary channels, including a record national average of 372,000 tuning in for the women’s Melbourne derby last weekend.
"We are committed to embracing all Australians and promoting cricket as being a female-friendly environment. Network Ten has been a great supporter and is playing a key role in inspiring females to understand that cricket is a game for girls and women too."
Watch: Kapp, Perry lead Sixers to victory
Network Ten will also extend its post-game coverage for the three remaining broadcast matches, including this Saturday’s match at Etihad between the Melbourne Renegades and Sydney Thunder, which will remain on Ten's channel ONE HD. The commentary team will stay on air for up to 30 minutes post-match.
Speaking with ABC Grandstand on day two of the Sydney Test, Cricket Australia Chief Executive James Sutherland said he was confident the WBBL would soon attract its own broadcast deal.
"I think the support that we are seeing through those television ratings is really important but I think just as important, or more important, is the psyche around the fact that cricket is a sport for girls too," Sutherland told ABC Grandstand.
"I really sense that people are starting to understand that and men, who perhaps have had a particular mindset in the past, are starting to encourage young girls and perhaps their own daughters into the game of cricket and saying 'this is a sport my daughter can love, and the opportunities for her are absolutely huge as she progresses through the ranks'."
WBBL on Channel 10 and ONE HD
January 9: Melbourne Renegades v Sydney Thunder (Etihad Stadium), 2.30pm AEDT (ONE HD)
January 16: Sydney Sixers v Sydney Thunder (SCG), 1.30pm AEDT (Channel 10)
January 21 & 22: WBBL semi-finals (TBA), (ONE HD)
January 24: WBBL Final (TBA), (Channel 10)