The England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB), and its broadcast partners had shut down close to 700 unauthorised websites offering illegal streams of cricket matches during England’s Test series against India, last summer, reports ESPNCricinfo, citing ECB Chairman Giles Clarke. Clarke said that shutting down such websites involved a complex procedure but ‘ can be done and has to be done’, but he didn’t go into the details of how exactly the ECB went about doing this. Often, streaming sites are not covered by the jurisdiction of a particular country, and more often than not, it is difficult to figure out who exactly is running these sites.

There is precedence – recently, online Cricket streaming site Willow.tv was sending legal notices to people who accessed sites offering illegal cricket streams, since it managed to get user data through a subpoena. It advised the users in question, to either purchase a monthly subscription or pay a significantly higher fixed fee per match, failing which they’ll face legal action.

Nikhil adds: The reason this issue even exists is because of how sports rights are actually split across media and geography, and how broadcasters are sometimes not meeting demand, or putting content behind a paywall:

– The sports body could have given complete rights to a broadcaster who doesn’t have worldwide distribution for the match inked, which means that fans in countries where no broadcaster has signed up, have to look for a live stream online.
– The broadcaster in a particular geography may not be in a position to monetize the online streaming, and might not have adequate local TV distribution in place among cable companies.
– The sports body could have sold online rights for a particular geography to a company which is offering the live streaming behind a paywall.

Except in the last instance, this would be a case of legitimate demand not being met. For example, I remember an instance when there was a particular football match which was not available on my DTH operator, and I sought out a live stream. These issues will be addressed once content distribution shifts to Internet Protocal, especially with connected TVs, and content being delivered as multicast, irrespective of the device it is being consumed on.

Update: Samir Chopra, at Cricinfo, appears to agree that it’s a demand supply issue, and asks for Cricket to allow greater participation from fans and for archives to be made available online. Read – An open letter to Giles Clarke