BT Sport has agreed a five-year deal with Cricket Australia for a major package of UK TV rights.
The partnership begins in 2016 and will see the pay-TV operator air the 2017/18 Ashes Test series between Australia and England exclusively live on its television and digital platforms. BT Sport will also air live coverage of tours by New Zealand, South Africa, India and Pakistan, as well as the Big Bash League domestic T20 franchise competition, the women's Ashes, and the Women's T20 Big Bash League.
The broadcaster has also made a commitment to screen selected programming on a free-to-air basis, including international highlights and one game from each week of the Big Bash League.
According to the UK's Daily Mail, BT Sport will pay Cricket Australia around UK£16 million (US$25 million) a year over the course of the deal, having significantly outbid Sky Sports. The agreement has been seen as a major blow in BT's ongoing battle with Sky in the UK sports rights marketplace, particularly as it includes the Ashes series. Cricket is known to be second in Sky's list of priorities after soccer.
Sky Sports has been the exclusive live TV broadcaster of all English cricket since home Test matches left free-to-air Channel 4 in 2005, but will now see BT Sport as a significant rival for those rights when the England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB) opens its next cycle from 2019. No other broadcaster in the UK has carried overseas England matches live since 1990.
"BT Sport is delighted to be adding international cricket to its line-up, and to be the new home of the next Ashes tour in Australia," said BT TV and BT Sport managing director Delia Bushell. "We will show live domestic games featuring the best players in the world during the Big Bash League and all Australian home matches for the next five years.”
Ben Amarfio, the executive general manager of media, communications and marketing at Cricket Australia, added: "BT Sport put forward a highly compelling bid for the rights to broadcast cricket from Australia to audiences throughout the United Kingdom.
“They are uniquely placed to become one of the UK’s largest sports channels and we think cricket can provide the content and opportunities to help them do just that.
“With more cricket content now available via BT Sport, free-to-air television and through our digital platforms, we are making the game more accessible to more people. The principle of taking the game to more people is very important in our efforts to grow the game.”
The news comes after Australia earned a consolation victory in the fifth Test of this year's Ashes at London's Kia Oval, with the series ending 3-2 to England. The home side regained the urn with victory at Nottingham's Trent Bridge earlier this month.
BT Sport currently shows live cricket from the Caribbean Premier League in British homes.