By Amlan Chakraborty
NEW DELHI (Reuters) - The International Cricket Council (ICC) is considering separating media and broadcasting rights of the women's events following the success of the Women's Twenty20 World Cup in Australia earlier this year.
The governing body shared impressive television broadcast, digital audience and attendance numbers from the tournament on Thursday, which it said have set "new benchmarks".
It was the second tournament to take place as a standalone event after the first five editions were held concurrently with the men's World T20.
"All of our data points over the last three years have shown us that fans are interested in women's cricket," ICC chief executive Manu Sawhney said in a statement reflecting on the numbers.
"There is an audience for women's cricket out there and rights holders along with broadcasters and brands are starting to realise that.
"There is a clear opportunity here for the sport and we are currently exploring various options to optimise value generation including the unbundling of women's rights."
According to ICC estimates, 70% of the game's billion-plus fans want to see more women’s cricket, which resulted in 1.1 billion video views for the tournament in Australia.
"We want to build a long-term sustainable foundation for the game and commercialisation is a central plank of that which is why we are exploring the unbundling of rights," Sawhney said.
Australia beat India in the March 8 final to win their fifth title at Melbourne Cricket Ground on International Women's Day.
Among the crowd of 86,174, a record for a women's sporting event in Australia, was trailblazing tennis great Billy Jean King.
Sawhney found inspiration from the American and her compatriots who began their campaign for equal prize money in tennis 50 years ago.
"Look at Billie Jean King and the Original Nine, their first contract was for $1 but it was a leap of faith that drove transformational change. Doing what we’ve always done will not achieve that.
"As broadcasters and brands start to invest specifically in women’s sport then promotional budgets will follow," Sawhney said.
"This third party promotion combined with the reinvestment of income will help our aspiration to accelerate the growth of the game."
(Reporting by Amlan Chakraborty in New Delhi; editing by Christian Radnedge)