Seven was delighted with audiences for the day-night clash against Pakistan in Adelaide, despite the contest being rain-marred and over in four days, but hopes for a more intriguing contest are high now the Black Caps, ranked No.2 in the world, are here for three Tests.
The series begins at Optus Stadium on Thursday, with this to be the first day-night Test in the west. The three-hour time difference with the east coast means for the first time a day’s play could finish as late as 11.30pm in Sydney and Melbourne. The day’s play will start at 4pm for Sydney and Melbourne viewers. Play in Perth has traditionally finished at 9pm on the eastern seaboard.
Martin and senior figures at Fox Sports, cricket’s pay-television provider, are confident viewers will welcome live play through prime time and into the night.
Play finished as late as 10.30pm in Adelaide because of rain, and Martin said the ratings showed viewers were prepared to stay up late.
“We had a late finish on Friday night of the Adelaide Test and we had some phenomenal audiences,” he said.
Seven said the final session, with David Warner and Marnus Labuschagne dominating, enjoyed an average of 868,000 viewers across the country.
The strong ratings Channel Nine, the publisher of this masthead, enjoyed over winter for the Ashes series in England is another reason why broadcasters are confident Perth will be a success.
“The Ashes went well on free-to-air, those late-night sessions, obviously, indicated viewers were happy to see great cricket. New Zealand have really geared up for this. We are in for a real stoush. They have been plotting to win this – they are going to have a red-hot crack here. I tell you what we do know – we are going to get a result,” Martin said.
“I think this particular series is going to take on a life of its own. As a result, we have just got great live telly all the way through until 11.30pm.
“School, if it hasn’t broken for school holidays, the kids will be home and will be able to settle in for the first ball and the last ball. In the past, a lot of it has gone on while people have been at work. But you will be able to plan your viewing knowing you’ll be able to watch the first ball each day of the Test.”
CA wants Adelaide to permanently host a pink-ball Test, while Perth is desperate to make its Test a major event and attract greater crowds – and viewers.
The Gabba was keen for the first Test against Pakistan this summer to be a day-night affair, having hosted Pakistan under lights in 2015-16 and Sri Lanka last year, but CA opted against a third pink-ball Test.
The festive season Tests in Melbourne and Sydney have remained as traditional day-only matches but that is not locked in. However, they are staged at time when the Big Bash League is on, and broadcasters may be loathe to cannibalise the two formats.
Jon Pierik is cricket writer for The Age. He also covers AFL and has won awards for his cricket and basketball writing.