There is more than one reason, of course, but I will spare you the boring ones like “I wanted to save a few bucks” and “been too busy to watch much cricket lately anyway” and “ESPN3’s been doing a nice job recently filling in the cracks when I do have time” – those are important and valid reasons, of course, but they do not tell the entire story.
I cancelled because the service – despite its best intentions – is no longer worth the $15 a month. And this is because it is catering not to the global cricket supporter, but to the Indian ex-pat in America. All you have to do to see the direction the service is taking is to look at the events page: mostly Indian domestic leagues – including the IPL, of course – plus a few International tours, most of them involving India.
Now Indian cricket is phenomenally entertaining – and the IPL alone is a fantastic product (if that’s your thing) – and so I do not blame the service for the business decision they have made – they saw a hole in the market and they exploited it, just like you’re supposed to do – but unfortunately their current roster of rights is just not worth my $15 a month.
But there is a larger story here, as Willow’s model adjustment makes it appear that the only way for an online cricket service to survive in America is for it to cater almost exclusively to one segment of the cricket watching US public – albeit, of course, the largest and most passionate, but still only one segment – and that goes to show that the sport really hasn’t taken any sort of foothold in the mainstream US sporting landscape. And this lack of solid footing for the game could spell the end of what was a truly a great time to be a cricket follower in America.
Of course, there is ESPN, with their coverage of ICC tournaments and other tours, but as the American based Aussie Rules fan will tell you, ESPN picks up and drops rights to “alternative” sports as it pleases and without warning. And so while ESPN might very well pick up the rights that Willow have dropped – England, for one; New Zealand, for another – then again they might not. And if they don’t, then the cricketing golden age here in the states might very well have reached its Zenith last summer, and simultaneously we might very well wave goodbye forever to cricket ever “happening” in America.
I hope I am wrong, and I might be jumping the gun a bit, but we shall see. At this point I don’t see another provider the size of ESPN – like an NBC for example – jumping in for any cricketing rights; and I really don’t think there is room for another start-up online cricketing service. And so we can only hope that ESPN expands its coverage, and fills in the gaps left by Willow.TV, or that Willow adjusts back to its past business model of showing a great deal more variety of world cricket (and if that happens, they will get my $15/month back).
Time will tell. Until then, I am back to the good old days of the ball by ball and the BBC.