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ESPN to broadcast MLB Draft for first time since 2008

The 2020 Major League Baseball Draft will be held remotely on June 10-11 and carried on multiple networks for the first time, it has been announced.

In addition to being televised on the MLB Network, the event’s traditional broadcast partner, ESPN will broadcast the Draft across its networks for the first time since 2008.

The first round will air on June 10, from 7pm–10:30pm ET on ESPN, while the second round through the fifth round will air on ESPN2 on June 11 from 5pm-11pm ET.

The event will also be streamed via the ESPN App while the Spanish-language ESPN Deportes will also televise day one.

ESPN’s MLB Draft coverage highlights will include cameras with the general manager or select personnel of all 30 MLB teams. The event will be hosted from ESPN’s headquarters in Bristol, Connecticut, with several ESPN MLB and college baseball commentators contributing to the coverage remotely.

According to a press release, it marks the first time that ESPN has produced the MLB Draft since 2008 when the event was held at the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex in Florida. ESPN also produced the 2007 event at the same location.

It will also be the first time that more than one network will provide live primetime coverage of the MLB Draft.

The Draft usually runs 40 rounds but was shortened this year in response to the global Covid-19 pandemic. The Detroit Tigers have the No. 1 pick.

The ability to reduce the Draft was negotiated with the MLB Players Association as part of an agreement struck in March to cover various issues related to the Covid-19 pandemic. The shift will result in just 160 players set to be drafted this year when including supplemental picks, by far the lowest number since annual Draft began in 1965. 

The stark Draft reduction will also eliminate nearly $30m (€27m) in signing bonus money that would have been paid by clubs, resulting a roughly $1m savings per team. Undrafted players can be drafted in unlimited numbers for a maximum signing bonus of $20,000 each. 

That financial savings does represent a small aid to clubs that have seen gate revenues fall to nothing as the entire MLB season remains on hold due to the public health crisis. But numerous player agents still decried the move, believing the savings will be minimal relative to baseball’s overall economics and help drive talented young athletes to other sports.

Though the MLB Draft generates nowhere near the massive levels of fan engagement that the National Football League does for its Draft, it remains a key source of new talent acquisition.