HONG KONG – Pan-Asian sportscaster ESPN STAR Sports has agreed to pay $900 million for ten year commercial rights to Champions League Twenty20, a new int’l series of cricket’s crowd-pulling format.

That compares with the $1.03 billion paid this year by Sony and World Sports Group for the Indian Premier League, but ESS says its winning bid is the highest price ever paid for a cricket tournament on per game basis.

ESS, a joint venture between Disney and News Corp., beat rival bids of $751 million from DIC and another, which was disqualified, from Abu Dhabi Sports Club.

Teams play the Twenty20 high-speed, made-for-TV format of cricket and compete for a $6 million prize.

To run Dec 3-10, the Champions League series involves the winners and runners-up from the local Twenty20 series in Australia, India and South Africa, plus Pakistan’s Sialkot team and Middlesex, England’s Twenty20 winner. Next year the tournament will expand to 12 teams.

“Through our television channels – ESPN, STAR Sports & STAR Cricket, our website http://www.espnstar.com, and our wireless platforms mobileESPN and STAR Sports Mobile, we are confident of taking the Champions League Twenty20 to new heights,” Manu Sawhney, MD Asia, ESPN Star Sports, said.