ESPN Star nets cricket series for $900 mil

10-year agreement for global multimedia rights

NEW DELHI -- Disney/News Corp. joint venture ESPN Star Sports is shelling out $900 million in a 10-year pact for the global multimedia rights to Champions League Twenty20, a new shortform cricketing series.

Bowing Dec. 3-10, the winner of the inaugural Champions T20 will take home $6 million prize from joint host-promoters, the cricket boards of India, Australia and South Africa, ESS said Thursday.

The T20 format is a faster and shorter version of cricket that made this summer's inaugural Indian Premier League a major success.

Eight teams will compete to be T20 Champion: the winners and runners-up from domestic T20 competitions in India, Australia and South Africa, plus the champion Pakistani T20 team Silakot and the champion English T20 team Middlesex.

Singapore-based ESS outbid rival DIC, which offered $751.3 million. The Abu Dhabi Sports Club was disqualified for offering a conditional bid.

ESS' global rights until 2017 are all-inclusive including TV, sponsorship, mobile and new media.

So far, the highest amount for any cricket event rights is $1.03 billion, paid in mid-January by Sony Entertainment Television and World Sports Group for the Indian Premier League. However, ESS claims its bid for the Champions League T20 is the highest price ever paid for a cricket tournament on a per-game basis.

In 2006, ESS bagged global broadcast rights to matches organized by the International Cricket Council for eight years for a reported figure of more than $1 billion.