Test matches in England are a fantastic experience, I've now been to three and plan on going to many more over the coming years. Not one of them has had great weather yet the ground has always been full despite the conditions. Granted I do chose the premium tests (even if not at the premium venues) but I would say even the lower profile tests would still be close to capacity on most occasions given favourable forecasts. Unfortunately though this is needed, as from my limited experience, county games don't get anywhere near the sort of audiences one would expect they'd need to survive on their own.
This however is not the case in other countries... it is not the test matches that subsidise other forms of the game, it is the one day and Twenty20 internationals that do. I'm not even just talking about the lowest end of the scale - Zimbabwe are incurring huge losses just to host test cricket again - it is a problem even in established test nations. Former Sri Lanka star Muttiah Muralitharan has recently spoken out about this:
"India versus Pakistan or England against Australia makes money - but playing other teams it doesn't.
If Sri Lanka play Test cricket you lose money and if you play one-day and Twenty20 games you generate money.
In the world at the moment it is possible for cricketers to get rather rich - but this mainly comes from participating in the Indian Premier League (the most high profile domestic Twenty20 competition) and to a lesser extent playing in other Twenty20 tournaments around the world. The international game cannot quite compete with the riches that the IPL can offer, as such younger players have a greater incentive to hone their skills to fit the games shortest format rather than it's longest. Even those who perform in both often prioritise their IPL commitments. I am not going to say that Twenty20 or the IPL is a bad thing, as anything to get more people interested in cricket should be tried, I just worry there is too much focus on the short, easily consumable format. They are set up to make as much money as possible, often meaning they are too long and draw focus away from other aspects of the game.
I can't envisage a situation when England stop playing Australia for the Ashes, or India/South Africa stopping touring, there is too much history with each nation. However those doing less well may struggle in years to come and as a result the financial pressures may take their toll.
One great idea to improve Test Cricket's marketability and appeal is to host a "Test Championship" every four years between the four highest ranked teams. This would give all nations something to strive for (not just becoming #1 like England managed), but also making the top 4 (similar to the English football Premier League). Those on the fringes at 5, 6, 7 and 8 (notionally currently Sri Lanka, West Indies, Pakistan and New Zealand - although Australia have been flirting with 5th recently to the gain of Sri Lanka) would really get a real target, something that could be used to inspire crowds as well as the added marketability of the championships themselves - potentially reviving interest amongst fans. In England there seems to be real appeal for such a tournament, probably due to the current status as World Number 1, however it appears that the ICC are having a change of heart - motivated by the broadcasting partner. The first tournament was provisionally going to be staged in 2013, however now they may be replacing this with the Champions Trophy (a 50 over tournament that is low on most people's list of preferences as there is also a 50 over World Cup that has much greater prestige). In my mind this is a real shame and I can't help wonder if it is motivated by the fact that India (the games big financial power) have recently been annihilated 4-0 in the test series here. I really hope the powers that be have a change of heart.