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How The Hundred helps attract young fans to cricket

It’s a big month for my cricket loving family. This year’s edition of The Hundred, the new 100-ball cricket tournament in England and Wales, is almost underway.

The next big date on our agenda is March 23, Draft Day – an American sports-style process by which teams bid for top professional players to join them. This is a must-have watch in our house. It’s even on the calendar.

My kids already have their favorite players. We have been to the Ageas Bowl in Southampton several times to see our adopted team, the Southern Braves. My daughter has become a fan of young English talent Maia Bouchier, who anchors the middle batting order with her aggressive style. My son – a batting keeper himself – loves watching South African Braves star Quentin de Kock.

According to Ben Wickham, Creative Production Director at Sky Sports, younger viewers often focus more on individual athletes and their stories, as well as the competition as a whole, wins and losses. And so, making sure the narratives are covered helps attract younger fans to the game.

“Components of The Hundred like the Draft work really well to build individual athlete and team stories simultaneously,” he said. “Different components of the tournament appeal to different parts of our audience.”

Most pop songs these days are designed to win listeners in ten seconds, and Ben’s team has to do the same. But building multiple different angles into a story is a challenge when you have seconds, not minutes, to try to convince people to give a watch to a new event like The Hundred. Wickham added: ‘We can’t assume people will care – we have to tell the story first. But you don’t have long to hook people.’

A live program director must be aware of the context of the story unfolding before him and know how to get the most out of that narrative, whether adding a layer of data or a replay at the right time.

“The most incredible stage in darts history at the recent World Championships was just 62 seconds from start to finish,” Wickham said. “The director knew exactly what to do as it unfolded in the moment. This piece has now been seen by tens of millions of people.

There’s also a real balance to be struck – for every person who wants to hear expert analysis, many just want to put their feet up and watch the action unfold. This is where digital platforms and social media can work the hardest for the most discerning viewer.

“They help us tell a larger story that could be more discursive and detailed, whereas when we focus on the main action of the show,” Wickham explained. “It also happens with something like the general election in the news.” Even then, there is a point where the analysis must stop, because allowing the audience to witness events unfolding uninterrupted is also crucial. Sometimes the sport just needs to do its job.

Pay TV is, of course, a major expense in a time when money is tight. The sport in general and products like The Hundred are apparently making their mark, which is a sign of the progress being made in attracting new fans of games such as cricket.

One of the great opportunities of this digital age is that sport can be more for more people. Cricket can simultaneously tell the stories of Maia Bouchier and Quentin de Kock, the Women’s Ashes and the Men’s Hundred in the same way. It’s about celebrating inherited traditions alongside modernization – really, entertainment is key.

standard Sport

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