ICC reveals record-breaking digital engagement for Cricket World Cup

The International Cricket Council has released the final digital content viewing figures for this year’s men’s Cricket Word Cup in England, revealing record-breaking levels of digital engagement for a cricket tournament. 

The ICC is reporting that the World Cup delivered overall video views of 4.6 billion worldwide, with 3.6 billion of those coming on its own channels and a further billion via the platforms of the ICC’s official digital clips licensees.

In total, 3.5 billion minutes of video were watched across Facebook and YouTube, while 31 million tweets were sent with the hashtag #CWC19 between the opening fixture on May 20 and the final on July 15. The ICC says this represents growth of more than 100 per cent over the 2015 edition.

The news is vindication for the ICC’s strategy to augment its digital output for the 2019 World Cup in an attempt to attract a younger, more diverse audience to the sport. 

“Before this World Cup, we looked at the audiences we wanted to target and thought, ‘where are they sitting and what do we need to do?’”, said Aarti Dabas, head of media rights and digital at the ICC, speaking exclusively to SportBusiness. “We finally did partnerships with Facebook, Twitter and YouTube to officially share and promote our content across those channels, and you can see from the numbers that that was effective.”

Dabas added that the ICC also worked with various websites in order to make sure clips from the World Cup were shared as widely as possible, partnering with “the likes of BBC and ESPN Cricinfo in the UK, Hotstar in India, and Cricbuzz in the US; different organisations in different parts of the globe, to increase the reach,” she said. “Watching six-minute clips per-hour is not as good as watching live, but we wanted to target that younger audience, who are consuming less and less live, and more bite-sized content.”

Coverage of the Cricket World Cup final, in which England beat New Zealand by the narrowest of margins, broke the record for page views on the BBC website, Dabas said, with the 40 million people who logged in to follow the action at some point during the day helping to surpass the previous record of 35.4 million set by the 2017 UK General Election.

The most-watched single video was not of any cricketing action, but of India captain Virat Kohli imploring the Oval crowd to show more respect to Australia batsman Steve Smith. That, too, is pleasing to the ICC, which placed a focus on building stories and narratives around cricket as part of its wider engagement strategy.

“The focus for us was really on storytelling,” said Dabas. “What is the story of the match? But also of the players, of the rivalries? We want to build heroes for cricket, tell the players’ stories more, let their personalities come through. It’s about getting people to pick up a bat and a ball, and to do that you have to have heroes of the game. We saw lots of videos being shared after the final of people starting to play cricket or emulating the stars, which is the best kind of feedback.”