Champions League rights sell for $900 million
The status of Twenty20 cricket as the sport's most lucrative avatar has been confirmed with commercial rights to the Champions League being sold for US$900 million to broadcasters ESPN-Star Sports (ESS). This makes the Champions League, promoted by the national boards of India, Australia and South Africa, the highest valued cricket tournament on a per-game basis.
The ten-year deal, which includes an additional $75 million for marketing the tournament, gives the network the global commercial rights to every Champions League match from this year's inaugural event in December until 2017.
The organisers confirmed the deal when they opened all the bids in Dubai on Wednesday. ESS was preferred ahead of DIC, who offered $751.3 million, and the Abu Dhabi Sports Club, whose bid was disqualified for being conditional.
The deal marks ESS's entry into the specialized Twenty20 market; it had lost out on the bid for the Indian Premier League after what seemed like a miscalculation on its part. The IPL rights were eventually sold to a consortium, including Sony Entertainment Television and the Singapore-based World Sports Group, for more than $1 billion. It had seemed like an outrageous price to pay at the time; now, after the overwhelming success of the inaugural IPL, it seems a steal.
ESS are the ICC's television rights holder until 2015 - they acquired the rights in 2006 for $1.1 billion over nine years - but the postponement of the Champions Trophy, originally due to start in Pakistan tomorrow, left them facing a long spell without a major series.
Lalit Modi, the IPL commissioner, said the bidding process had been "fair and transparent". "We have what we believe to be the best commercial deal for the inaugural Champions League Twenty20 season and for cricket fans across the world," Modi said. "All the bids received were of a very high standard."
Modi told Cricinfo that Mumbai and Bangalore were the new "confirmed venues" for the 2008 series, while a suitable third venue will be finalised in the "next 2-3 days". The organisers had previously scheduled the tournament in Mohali, Delhi and Jaipur, but Modi said the venues had to be changed taking into consideration the dew factor that may affect the night games in northern India during winter months.
The Champions League this year will feature eight sides from India, South Africa, Australia, England and Pakistan, before expanding to a 12-team competition in 2009.
Note: ESPN-Star Sports is a joint venture between ESPN and Star; Cricinfo is wholly owned by ESPN.