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WBBL’s blueprint for primetime evolution

Saturday’s Weber WBBL final was the most-watched game in the league’s history, and Big Bash boss Alistair Dobson says the match at Optus Stadium is the blueprint for the league’s next evolution into primetime.

The crowd of 15,511 at Optus Stadium that saw Perth Scorchers claimed their maiden WBBL title with a 12-run win over Adelaide Strikers was the highest attendance at a standalone WBBL match, smashing the previous record of 5,650 at Great Barrier Reef Arena, Mackay in WBBL|04.

It was also the biggest crowd to attend any WBBL finals match, surpassing the 10,069 fans who watched the WBBL|03 semi-final between the Scorchers and Sydney Thunder (a double-header with the men’s KFC BBL).

A combined average audience of 535,000 tuned in across TV and streaming platforms, eclipsing the 506,000 audience for the WBBL|04 final.

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“Last night showed when you’ve got a big stadium and good promotion and two great teams, that people turn up in big numbers,” Dobson told cricket.com.au.

Every match was broadcast on television for the first time this season, with 25 matches on Channel Seven and the remainder shown on Kayo and Fox Cricket and live-streamed free on cricket.com.au and the CA Live App.

“Our ambition would be to maintain our (broadcast) footprint and the next evolution of that is not only to have the big weekends that the WBBL is known for, but also starting to build that blockbuster footprint,” Dobson continued.

“Next year, whether it’s Friday nights or Thursday nights, a bit more regularity in that primetime space is something that I think is the next evolution for next year.

“It certainly stood out to us and (we had) lots of feedback from fans that they wanted to be watching (at those times) and there’s opportunities there so I think it’s right that we start to build not only on the number of games (broadcast), but how we can make them as big as possible.”

The next edition of the WBBL will run partially alongside the 2022 men’s T20 World Cup, which will be staged in Australia from October 16 to November 13.

Dobson acknowledged the clash would require careful consideration when creating the WBBL|08 schedule but was confident the two tournaments could feed off one another.

“We’ll have to work really closely with our broadcasters on how we schedule around that,” he said.

“It’s the strongest cricket league in the world for women if not (the strongest) full stop, and we’ll work really hard and smartly around how we schedule around that World Cup.

“But in some respects, that gives us an opportunity.

“There’ll be so much hype and interest in cricket broadly (at that time) and we’ll have the best female players playing in the WBBL and the best male players in the World Cup and I think both events can really help drive momentum into the other.”

WBBL|07 was the most-watched season ever, with a 15 per cent increase on the WBBL|06 cumulative average audiences, and higher average audiences per game – something Dobson attributed to the increased number of matches on television.

“It shows when you’ve got all games on TV, fans are able to really follow the narrative of the season, then you’ve got storylines like (Strikers batter) Katie Mack at the back-end of the season,” he said.

“When you’ve got all the games that are accessible on TV, it allows fans to really engage in not just who’s winning and who’s on the top of the ladder, but all those individual storylines that are so rich in the WBBL.”

WBBL|07 was the second edition staged against the backdrop of COVID-19, and where last season was played entirely in a Sydney hub, this year’s tournament moved across Australia’s ‘zero Covid’ states, travelling from Tasmania to South Australia, Western Australia and Queensland.

It was held with few hiccups; there was a three-day lockdown in Hobart that kept fans from attending the opening weekend, and the Strikers travelled to Perth on Friday ahead of the final just 24 hours before WA closed its borders to SA.

On the field the competition also shone; Scorchers opener Beth Mooney took out the BKT Golden Bat with 547 runs for the tournament, continuing her outstanding record as the only player to have passed 400 runs every season.

Amanda-Jade Wellington’s brilliant finals series, highlighted by her 5-8 in The Eliminator against Brisbane Heat, catapulted her to the top of the BKT Golden Arm leaderboard with 23 wickets.

Harmanpreet Kaur became the first Indian player to be named Player of the Tournament, while five centuries were scored in Weber WBBL|07, three by overseas players, second only to the six centuries scored in WBBL|04.

Darcie Brown’s hat-trick against the Brisbane Heat was the sixth hat-trick since the WBBL’s inception, while there were two Super Over finishes – with Scorchers captain Sophie Devine the match-winning hero on both occasions.

“From an on-field perspective, I thought it was the year that the competition turned the corner in terms of just the sheer depth of the talent involved,” Dobson said.

“Eight really competitive teams have all got (10 or more) players that are becoming household names.

“When you look at the types of players that Channel Seven are using on the mic on broadcast, they’re so varied, and each one of them brings such a unique perspective and storylines.

“I think pretty quickly fans are realising this. Every game you can tune in and watch or go to, there’s something really unique happening.

“What stands out from a WBBL perspective, is just the accessibility of the players and their openness and willingness to not only play the best possible cricket, but be part of the promotion and engage with the broadcasters and do it in such a fun way that people can’t help but be drawn to it.”



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