The England cricket team have reached a world cup final for the first time in nearly three decades, taking on New Zealand after beating Australia in the semi-finals in spectacular fashion.
In the UK, Sky Sports has taken the unusual step of making the stream of the game free to watch online, as well as on terrestrial TV in the UK through a partnership with Channel 4. (The same is true for New Zealand, where the unconnected local broadcaster Sky Sports has also celebrated the occasion by making the stream available for everyone.)
All other matches of the 2019 Cricket World Cup have only been available to Sky subscribers in the UK, meaning hundreds of links to free and illegal pirated streams have spread online and across social media in the build up to each match.
As well as posing a cyber security threat to people who click on them, these links also create huge revenues for pirates through online ads.
Online piracy authority MUSO said that making popular sporting events freely available to watch is a major blow to digital pirates, as cricket fans will no longer need to go through illegal channels to watch the match for free.
It is not the first time a major final has been shifted from a paid subscription broadcast to a free-to-view platform, with BT Sports deciding earlier this year to make both the Champion’s League final and Europa League final freely available for anyone to watch.
Neither Sky Sports nor BT Sports cited piracy in their reasons behind making the matches free, though streaming experts noted that making the games broadly available would result in a large shift of people moving away from illegal channels to watch the game through legitimate means.
World Cup plagued by ‘industrial-scale’ piracy
Both broadcasters instead cited patriotic reasons behind their decisions.
“England in the final on home soil is a huge moment for sport in this country and we are proud to be the host broadcaster,” said Sky UK and Ireland chief executive Stephen van Rooyen.
“Thanks to our strong relationship with Channel 4, we are partnering to make the game available to everyone, so the whole country can get behind England, and be part of a special national sporting event.”
Channel 4 chief executive Alex Mahon added: “This is fantastic news for cricket fans and the nation. This Sunday is a massive day for British sport with England tantalisingly close to lifting the Cricket World Cup for the first time.”
Live coverage of the 2019 Cricket World Cup final will begin on Channel 4 and online at All 4 from 9am BST on Sunday, with the coverage switching to More4 at 1.15pm.