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Selling cricket as a commodity

By Glen Davis - posted Wednesday, 22 November 2017


When Guy Debord wrote his seminal work, The Society of the Spectacle, he may have had the Kentucky Fried Chicken sponsored Big Bash League, (BBL), in his thoughts:

Everything that appears is good. Whatever is good will appear.

Cricket is a statistician's dream - highest scores, greatest winning margins, most runs in a session - there are endless topics to enthral and intrigue students of the game.
But who is cognisant of results, let alone records in the BBL? How many of us can recall the results or recite the records in this format of the game? Does it matter? Do we care?

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Thomas Adorno wrote of the culture industry referring to a process he called "standardisation". For Adorno, standardisation was a concept used to characterize the formulaic products of capitalist-driven mass media and mass culture, appealing to the lowest common denominator in pursuit of maximum profit. Standardisation gives people the impression a product is aimed specifically at them. The autographed framed team photo, the selfie with your hero, the gift card, and the online store are all part of this. It would suggest that so much as sport has morphed into entertainment, so this is an apt description of what is offered for us to enjoy.

The BBL, being the most modern format of the game of cricket, meets the definition of standardisation. Like with Adorno's definition of the culture industry, the KFC BBL aims for the mass audiences required to produce big revenues. The BBL variant of cricket no longer has players stoically defending to build a big innings, or a bowler putting in a lengthy match winning spell. Rather the audience just sits back to watch the sixes being hit, the exploding stumps, the miked up cricketers being interviewed, the action becomes the sole interest. The match result - is that of any consequence at all?

Go to the KFC BBL website, examine how it's promoted. It is all about the experience:

With 3 hours of action, fireworks, great music plus loads more entertainment, the KFC BBL is the ultimate family night out.

How good is it to appear at a night out at the BBL? Nary does a word in this blurb say anything specific to watching a cricket match.

Something is working though. Reading through the recent Cricket Australia annual report:

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The BBL remained a consistently popular TV offering, with an average of more than 1 million people tuning in to every match. The TV ratings for BBL saw it win 31 of 35 nights and cement itself as the number one ranked TV programs for families over summer. In terms of attendance, the season enjoyed an average of 30,114 people per match, a 2.3% increase on last year and placing it among the 10 biggest domestic leagues in the world.

Certainly that's spectacular in any language.

The BBL gives the appearance of bringing lots of money in. Yet, despite all the hype and publicity surrounding it, maybe the BBL is not as successful as it's portrayed. During the heated negotiations earlier this year, for the Memorandum Of Understanding (MOU) between Cricket Australia and the players' union, serious allegations were made about the finances of the BBL. Allegedly the BBL, despite its apparently spectacular imagery, lost $33.M over five years. We now hear talk that a scramble for an updated TV contract is imperative for it to be solvent. Cricket Australia has a current operating deficit of $50.8 M, of which the losses from the BBL are a substantive factor.

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Article edited by Chris Whitfield.
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About the Author

Glen Davis has post graduate qualifications in Humanities and Health Sciences and is a freelance, writer, blogger and broadcaster.

Creative Commons LicenseThis work is licensed under a Creative Commons License.

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