The success of last summer’s inaugural KFC Women’s Big Bash League has flowed into the recently concluded World T20 tournament in India with the women’s final between the West Indies and the Southern Stars drawing a huge increase in television viewers across Australia.
The final at Eden Gardens in Kolkata, which saw the West Indies claim an historic win in the final over, drew a total average viewing audience of 156,240 to Sunday evening’s broadcast carried exclusively by Fox Sports.
It was the sixth-highest rating program on subscription television in Australia that day behind a round of NRL and AFL matches, but pulling in more viewers than other live sports telecasts including V8 Supercars, A-League football and Super Rugby.
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It also represented a virtual doubling (an increase of 96 per cent) on the average audience of 79,868 that tuned in to see the Commonwealth Bank Southern Stars win their third consecutive WT20 title against England in Bangladesh two years ago.
With both matches played at the same time on a Sunday evening (from 7pm AEST) in the first week of April, and both telecast nationally on Fox Sports.
And it was an increase of almost 77 per cent on the 2012 Women’s WT20 final also played between Australia and England in an Asian time zone – in Colombo, Sri Lanka – in October that year.
The surge of interest in the Southern Stars ultimately unsuccessful campaign to win a fourth consecutive WT20 title came after the 10 Women’s BBL matches televised on free-to-air Network Ten last summer drew an average audience of 231,000 viewers.
With the Melbourne derby between the Stars and the Renegades on January 2 this year peaking at 399,000, and the WBBL Final between the triumphant Sydney Thunder and cross-city rivals the Sixers three weeks later recording an average viewership of 344,000.
In addition, the three T20 Internationals that the Southern Stars hosted against India last January – played as double-headers with the subsequent men’s fixtures – drew an average national audience to Channel Nine’s free-to-air telecast of 265,000.
The Australia Day clash at Adelaide Oval set a new benchmark for the women’s game in Australia with a national average audience of 447,000.
The huge increase in interest in the women’s game has led to Cricket Australia chief executive James Sutherland foreshadowing the biennial women’s World T20 could now be held as a stand-alone event at a separate time on the calendar to the quadrennial men’s tournament in the years they coincide.
The highest-rating men’s match of the 2016 WT20 was Australia’s opening fixture of the tournament against New Zealand in Dharamshala, which was played during prime time (from 8.30pm) on a Friday evening and televised on Channel Nine as well as Fox Sports.
That match drew an average national audience of 792,940 which was slightly higher than Australia’s subsequent match against Pakistan at the same time of day a week later that attracted an average audience of 754,322.