ESPN STAR wins cricket match


NEW DELHI -- Leading sports broadcaster ESPN STAR Sports, a joint venture between the Walt Disney Co. and News Corp., has won global broadcast rights to International Cricket Council matches for the next eight years, from 2007-15.

"The decision was a unanimous one, taken by the ICC board in Dubai on Saturday, and the ICC will now seek to reach final agreement with ESPN STAR Sports," the ICC said in a statement Saturday.

The audio-visual rights for 18 ICC matches, two World Cups (2011 and 2015) and at least three Champions Trophy tournaments were sold for an undisclosed sum "significantly in excess" of the ICC's previous commercial deal, ICC said.

However, media reports Monday said that ESPN STAR bid highest for the rights, between $1 billion and $1.1 billion. When contacted, a spokesperson at New Delhi-based ESPN STAR Sports India would not comment on the figure.

"This acquisition affirms our commitment to the Indian subcontinent and the world and we are absolutely delighted to bring the exciting lineup of ICC events to millions of cricket fans globally," ESS managing director Jamie Davis said in a statement.

The ICC's previous agreement with the Global Cricket Corp. (a News Corp. subsidiary) was worth $550 million for 2000-07.

Reports also indicate that ESS outbid Mumbai-based rival Nimbus Communications, which offered $900 million, as well as leading Indian broadcaster Zee Telefilms;and Sharjah-based sports broadcaster Ten Sports, which bid $850 million and $825 million, respectively.

ESS' win has fueled speculation as to the viability of its bid but industry estimates reckon that the network can pull in advertising revenues of at least $200 million-$300 million annually from its cricket properties just by selling advertising space at current prices, which are expected to grow 10%-15% every year.