Bryan Henderson spoke to the Broadcast Sport Podcast about Sky Sports’ summer of cricket

The Hundred

Sky Sports head of cricket and NFL Bryan Henderson has backed The Hundred head of its third season.

There have been reports that the ECB is considering the future of the competition, after its second season failed to surpass the success of its first. Over 16 million tuned into the first edition on Sky Sports and the BBC, but this dropped to just over 14 million for its second outing. This year it begins 1 August, with Sky Sports and the BBC to share broadcasting duties again.

Speaking on the Broadcast Sport Podcast, Henderson explained that scheduling, with the Premier League beginning early and the Commonwealth Games forcing a late start to The Hundred, was an issue for the second season. He still believes that the competition is playing the role it was designed for, saying, “it is the best vehicle to grow the game in this country,” and has high hopes for this summer’s tournament - which is being played in an exclusive window that has moved the Ashes earlier in the summer.

You can listen to the full podcast, which discusses Sky Sports’ packed summer of cricket, including The Hundred and both men’s and women’s Ashes series, below.

Henderson said of the Ashes’s new position in the summer: “You can argue things a whole lot of different ways, right? Some people are unhappy that the Ashes is being played slightly earlier. I would argue that the Ashes is being played post Champions League Final and pre start of the Premier League season. Therefore, you’ve got the perfect window where the most popular sport in the country by far is not being played, and therefore you have greater attention and eyeballs on to Ashes series. Other people see it differently. I respect that view.”

Bryan Henderson Headshot

He added on The Hundred’s second season drop off: “The Hundred this year is in an exclusive window for the first time. The first year, it was mid-July to mid-August, and it clashed with a couple of test matches. Last year, it clashed as well. The problem with last year in many ways, was that it started later, because of the Commonwealth Games. The Premier League season started earlier because of the football World Cup.

“So The Hundred started as Premier League football started, and there weren’t the women’s games to get a bit of momentum in the first week or so. So it just struggled a little bit to get going. Although it did recover, viewing figures were down slightly. Certainly the men’s competition, the women’s was pretty stable. And so I’m hoping, obviously, that there will be a bounce back this year, especially on the back of hopefully a great Ashes summer. So we’ll see. It’s not everybody’s cup of tea. I personally adore it.” 

Other topics covered by Henderson in the podcast include the men’s and women’s Ashes taking place over the next two months, and how the broadcaster will handle covering both series at the same time. New technological additions to Sky Sports’ broadcast are also explained, as well as its net zero production of both series and focus on women in broadcast tech - including 70%-80% of the team delivering the women’s Ashes being female. You can listen to the episode and the rest of the Broadcast Sport Podcast below.

Henderson continued on The Hundred, and its focus on younger and more diverse audiences: “We’ve worked really hard to over the last six years or so to prepare for it, and we’re two seasons in. We’re all set to go again this year. It starts a day after the men’s Ashes finishes. So again, we’ve got to be planned and prepped and ready. The data doesn’t lie. I think 36% of ticket buyers are female and 25% or 26% of tickets sold are kids. I go and watch a London Spirit game at Lords, and I’ve been a lot of cricket games in my life, and I look around and I’m like, oh my goodness, there are so many kids here.

“They are fresh, relevant brands to 2023. There’s kit everywhere. The event looks good. And half the people watching on television, either on the BBC or on Sky, are watching cricket for the first time. So there is no question that The Hundred is taking cricket to new audiences, to younger audiences, to more women, to more people of a minority ethnic background.

The Hundred cricket

“It obviously has caused knock on implications with the schedule and it’s not everybody’s cup of tea. And I get that and I respect their view. My view is that it is the best vehicle to grow the game in this country for the reasons that that I’ve stated. So I think it is incredibly important. You just have to stay relevant whatever you’re doing. Whether it’s selling cricket tickets or selling shampoo, we’re all in the business of trying to attract younger audiences. And that’s hard, right?

“There is a lot to for people to do out there, there is a lot of things for people to spend their money on. They are more choosy than ever before, and so you have to stay relevant. You have to give people what [they] want. They wanted shorter, they wanted simpler, they wanted events finishing earlier. The research showed that a big blocker to getting into cricket was around complexity. We’ve made it simpler. And, other than a slight drop off in TV viewing, everything is going in the right direction. Some people hate it, I get that. And I respect that view. But I love it.”

Every match of the men’s and women’s Ashes will be shown exclusively live on Sky Sports and NOW from 16th June.