Big Bash runs out a winner

AUSTRALIA traditionally avoids television ratings during the summer holiday season.

Popular programs are crammed into busy periods in September and October to ensure they have done their best for the host channel before the arbitrary ratings time ends somewhere in November.

Apparently we don't pay too much attention to commercials shown on the box when the temperature gets a bit hotter.

But if you were an advertiser prepared to buck the conventional theory, you might be on a winner with Network Ten's coverage of the Big Bash League.

The minnow channel's decision to go after something in cricket's box of tricks did not deliver the big reward of domestic Test matches but BBL might turn out to be a very real consolation prize.

The broadcasting of the majority of matches after 7pm in the eastern states is a winner. It's after dinner for the early eaters but very much the main course for the barbecue with family and friends.

And let's face it, there's another convention that is even less likely to be respected at this time of year: the dinner table. BBL is a perfect excuse to have the evening repast in front of the box.

Why all this works is the very reason why Twenty20 was established in the first place: it's super short-form cricket and the television viewer has only to minimally disrupt their schedule to include it in the day's activities.

As a bonus it's not generally on at the time of a summer's day that would deprive those in need of a little more exercise of the opportunity to access it.

The BBL has been a huge success in 2013-14 already, both in terms of television viewership and attendance at the matches. And importantly let's not forget that with the odd international player thrown in, this is essentially a domestic tournament often without our own best- known players.

Like so many other domestic sport could-be products, BBL has been a particular success in its third edition because a free- to-air television network was prepared to take a punt and put it on in prime time on its main station.

Second-tier internationals, retired Aussie greats and blokes like Brad Hodge who are still trying to make it have been the stars of the show.

There no sports science about this phenomenon- we haven't watched the Sheffield Shield or the domestic one-day competitions either live or on the telly for years, yet suddenly we are prepared do so with far less talented teams playing a version of the game that appeared out of nowhere.

It will be an interesting exercise to compare the success of the international short-form tournaments that kick off today.

Interestingly, Cricket Australia wins both ways, having already benefited in big dollar terms from splitting the television rights.

Not bad for a sporting body that for the previous year seemed to have issue after issue to contend with.

But there may well be a few decision-makers at Ten's rivals who might be keen to rely on a simple rationalisation that there aren't any winners in a non- ratings period.

In the end, maybe something as innocuous as a domestic smash-and-bash cricket tournament might be the catalyst for a rethink on what must surely be one of the laziest conventions in Australian business.

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