This is not related to the 1844 Podcast, but I wanted to respond to a long Twitter thread that's happening without adding 15 Twitter messages.

People are talking about US fans not getting in to cricket, or how that might be accomplished. Here's my analysis after having been a cricket fan for 10 years now.

Willow is the US monopoly cricket streaming service. They established this monopoly very cannily in 2003 to fill a huge void for South Asian expats who wanted to watch cricket after emigrating to the US without having to resort to dodgy YouTube streams or other methods.

The major broadcast and sports networks had been ignoring cricket for decades because a) the people who run these networks didn't understand it, and b) they didn't see the ex-pat market as big enough to sustain the sport on their channels. Nothing runs on these networks that doesn't turn a profit by itself. The bean-counters aren't going to allow a programming director to pay hefty rights fees to the ICC or BCCI and then get relatively paltry ratings from a few million ex-pats and the accompanying low ad sales, not when there are a dozen other proven options in any given time period.

The guys at Willow got this. They knew if they used their contacts in the ICC and BCCI and got these rights, ex-pats would gladly pay almost any fee to watch India play cricket live in HD. They signed up pretty much every US ex-pat cricket fan for $60 or $120 year, which is around $250M a year, and also sold ads, which is good chunk of change. They kept the overhead low, turned a good profit, and then sold out to the enormous conglomerate Times of India.

In light of this development, any hope for the major US networks to show cricket completely evaporated. Willow had captured the market totally, and competing with them at this point is a non-starter. I'm sure the networks have done due diligence to see if they could show cricket profitably, and I'm sure the survey results show that no casual sports fan is going to tune in, and the ex-pat community at its highest numbers is not going to be able to compete with the audiences for even women's college sports, say.

So, the only way for cricket to become mainstream in the US is for a sort of chicken-and-egg scenario where interest in cricket rises and causes pent-up demand for it to be shown on network/cable TV, it gets some limited trials, creating more demand, and so on. Where is that demand going to come from? The ex-pat market is saturated. Like soccer, it's going to have to come from kids learning the sport in the US and wanting to watch it on TV as they grow up. USA Cricket understands this, but they also see it's a 30-year process. And guess who they turned to for funding this 30-year process? Willow! So the chicken has been stripped of all its eggs, which were made into omelettes, and then it was barbecued.

At this point, it seems like the only way cricket could ever become mainstream in the US is if Willow decides that mainstream cricket is in their financial interests. At this moment, Willow fights hard for every US cricket fan to maintain their precious monopoly. If they let any other network get the rights to BCCI events, they are toast. The ex-pats will drop Willow like a hot rock if they can watch Kohli on ESPN+, for example. ESPN doesn't compete for BCCI rights at the moment because it's a big risk for them, and they have so many other easier options. A number of US fans would have to be reached where ESPN or NBCSN or whomever thinks the benefits outweigh the risks, and Willow either blows it through mismanagement or it thinks that allowing other networks to show cricket will increase and not decrease their subscriber base. I'm not sure if that is even possible in my lifetime.

Despite all this, I still think the 30-year process is worthwhile, and I am trying to participate in it by whatever means I can. Even if Willow controls cricket in the US forever and it never becomes mainstream on these shores, getting US kids involved in this sport is a good end in itself, because the game has such capacity for bringing joy and fun for a lifetime, and that's a good thing to be a part of. I'll let the money folks figure out the rest, as I know they will.