Live coverage on social media – what cricket can learn from golf

How do you cover a test match on social media?

Cricket’s shorter formats create an ebb and flow as major moments carve out the landscape of the match – key wickets, key boundaries and good partnerships form across a spell of a few overs. But in test matches, that rhythm takes a number of hours or even days to properly get going. For a casual fan, the joy is in a leisurely weekend spent dipping in and out rather than an action-packed evening roaring a team to victory.

That’s not just a problem for cricket. This summer, cycling will take centre stage at the Tour de France, and the summer of golf will present the same issues, too.

But recently, we’ve seen golf emerge as an unlikely social media friendly sport. The European Tour in particular has cultivated an image of having a great online output and both they and the PGA Tour have benefitted massively from being able to upload video to Twitter natively. For golf, where every shot is a potential moment for the highlights reel, that’s quite handy. Theoretically, it’s the same for cricket, too.

This weekend’s second Test between England and Pakistan at Headingley saw the home side level the series with victory, but unlike with golf’s main tours, the ECB is still figuring out the best platform on which to present its highlights.

The official England Cricket account provided coverage of the action in a similar way to how the golf tours cover their weekends. Key moments like wickets and boundaries are the obvious candidates for social media posts in the same way that great approach shots and key putts are covered by the PGA Tour. Clearly these represent the main points of every cricket match, but anyone who’s ever followed the sport will know there are rain delays and other miscellany which are important to provide coverage of (or during), too.

Being an official account, the light-hearted coverage you’ll get from other social accounts is not always there. But we’ve seen with some other official accounts – for example the FA and golf – that having a more engaging tone doesn’t need to devalue things. Even the seemingly stodgy old institutions can mix it up. But it’s obviously a difficult line to tread, and you have to know your audience.

Another thing the account is playing around with seems to be just how much coverage they should give away on Twitter and how much they should keep over on their own platforms.

The ECB website is making highlights clips available on its own platforms and clearly that would become a little redundant if everyone’s watching it on Twitter instead. Media rights may also be a factor here, too: Sky Sports Cricket account also covered the game – argubly even more comprehensively – on the social media platform, but they were the ones showing all the action live on TV and that has to be protected, too.

On the other hand, the PGA Tour appear to have bitten the bullet here simply pushing the big moments out on social media minutes after they happen, meaning fans can pretty much follow the action on social media without tuning into the live TV coverage (though that will make for a much different experience, and arguably a weaker one given the drama and anticipation is diluted).

Over the summer, anyone who wants to follow England’s test matches will be able to catch the most important highlights on the ECB website and on their Twitter feed. But as social media video becomes even more widespread and allows fans to follow most of the action from their phones and tablets, most sports will find themselves facing the same dilemma as the ECB on a regular basis.

About author

Chris McMullan
Chris McMullan 836 posts

Chris is a sports journalist and editor of Digital Sport - follow him on Twitter @CJMcMullan_

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