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Paul Nixon column – All counties need equal TV exposure

With the One-Day Cup and T20 Blast now in full flow, there is plenty of county action on our TV screens throughout the week. It’s brilliant to see. You can settle down any evening during the week and watch some good domestic cricket.

Sky missed the high-scoring thriller between Nottinghamshire and Northants this week, but that’s nobody’s fault. You can’t predict which games are going to be the entertaining ones and which will be the duller contests. What you can work out, though, is how often each county is scheduled to be shown live throughout the season.

Northants are set to be shown on TV just once this summer, with a T20 clash against Birmingham Bears on a Tuesday in July the only time that the likes of Ben Duckett, Alex Wakely and Josh Cobb will showcase their skills in front of the cameras.

Of course, this is unless the Steelbacks get through to the knockout stages of either limited-overs competition, and remember they have reached T20 Finals Day seven times over the past 11 years and were runners-up last season.

I do feel for the counties, especially when it comes to attracting sponsors, and we all know about the struggles Northants have off the field anyway, but I am a bit of a cynic about Sky. It’s brilliant to get the deals through the door, but, in reality, how many of the target audience actually watch the coverage?

Yes, sponsors get their name shown regularly, but counties tend to have mainly local sponsors anyway. A cricket fan in Durham will not be swayed to buy something from a local business from somewhere such as Sussex, Essex or Surrey just because they’ve seen the brand name on a shirt.

Even so, that Northants are shown just once, with Kent covered twice and a handful of counties to play in front of the cameras three times, is just not fair.

Compare this to Surrey and Yorkshire, who are each being shown six times, and it’s just a case of making the rich richer. Somerset are being shown seven times, but that Chris Gayle is playing for them could have a huge say on those decisions.

When the Sky cameras and presenters are there, it does add value to the vibe, energy and atmosphere of the game. It definitely adds to the excitement of the players too, knowing you are playing in front of a lot more people who don’t necessarily see you regularly.

Coverage does need to be shared around though. Granted, it’s the same with every sport. In football, the likes of Manchester United, Chelsea and Liverpool are all shown on TV more than West Brom or Stoke, but it’s not like the ‘smaller’ clubs aren’t shown. They still get a fair share of games.

Leicester City would never have expected to be shown live on Sky or BT Sport as much as they were this season, but they were doing well and matches to be shown are picked in batches every couple of months. Sky’s cricket coverage is already scheduled until the end of July. With T20 matches every week, and the brilliant commentary pod they take to the grounds, there surely wouldn’t be much harm in delaying the decision on which game to show until as late as possible.

Broadcasting is a lot simpler from the Test match grounds, where everything is already good to go, but we need to make sure we help the smaller Division Two counties as much as possible. We want to see every team progress, and most of these smaller teams are filled with young English talent.

Jake Ball got his call-up to the England squad after an impressive County Championship performance for Nottinghamshire in front of the cameras. That earned him added exposure and many wanted him in the squad on the back of that performance.

It’s not always a positive to be on TV though. When I was at Leicestershire, during the early days of T20, we weren’t shown that much and we actually quite enjoyed it. Nobody knew our brand of cricket and it helped us hide – our tactics and style would be more of a shock to our opponents.

Players do love the extra exposure and, as mentioned, the atmosphere around the grounds is brilliant when the cameras are there, but, technically and tactically, it’s good to not be on TV.

Test match counties have bigger budgets and that’s always going to be where players head to. When looking to move on from your county, TV coverage doesn’t come into a player’s mind. It’s nothing to do with how much you’re going to be shown on TV. It’s about playing with better players, against better players and at the better grounds. It’s that simple…

This piece originally featured in The Cricket Paper, Friday June 10 2016

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