ESPN shows interest in Korean baseball rights

LG Twins team players practice Photo by Chung Sung-Jun/Getty Images)

US sports broadcaster ESPN is reported to have approached the Korea Baseball Organisation (KBO) about the possibility of acquiring media rights in the US.

With no baseball being aired in the US as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic, including a stoppage of Major League Baseball, ESPN has shown “passing interest” in KBO rights, but with “nothing concrete” having been decided in terms of the format or the extent of the deal, Korea’s Yonhap News Agency reported.

One source speaking to Yonhap said ESPN had “contacted the KBO about how to go about showing Korean games in the US. But as far as I know, there haven’t been any specific talks about how they’re going to air games”. Another source said ESPN recently reached out to the agency selling the international rights to the KBO.

The board of directors at the KBO has approved practice games starting on April 21, however no firm date for the full season to commence has been confirmed. The 2020 season was scheduled to start on March 28, but has not yet got underway. May 1 and May 5 have been mooted as potential opening dates. The KBO board will make a decision on the start date on April 21, after the country’s social distancing procedures are reviewed on April 19. South Korea appears to be closer than many other countries, including the US, to a date where it is able to relax its social distancing measures and restart its sports season.

The KBO recently launched a tender for the distribution of its media rights in territories outside Korea, covering the 2020 to 2023 seasons. Bids for the international media rights had to be submitted by March 19.

The tender covered exhibition games, regular-season games, post-season/Korean Series games, and All-Star games. Video feeds are to be provided by Korean broadcasters, and all expenses for the production of an international feed – if deemed necessary – and overseas transmission are be borne by the winner of the tender.