10:05am: ESPN has formally announced the deal. They’ll broadcast six KBO games per week — one game every Tuesday through Sunday — in addition to covering the KBO postseason. Broadcast details of the postseason remain to be determined. Game selections will be made on a week-to-week basis and feature English commentary from remote ESPN broadcasters, with tonight’s game being called by Karl Ravech and Eduardo Perez and aired on ESPN 2. ESPN is also acquiring highlights rights throughout the league, and their press release notes that the telecast schedule is “subject to change pending future live event considerations.”
9:30am: After several weeks of negotiation, ESPN has reached an agreement with Korean media counterpart Eclat Media Group to broadcast Korea Baseball Organization games. The KBO announced that ESPN will be airing one game per day, beginning with tomorrow’s Opening Day contest between the Samsung Lions and the NC Dinos (Twitter link via Jee-ho Yoo of South Korea’s Yonhap News Agency). The games will be broadcast live, per the Wall Street Journal’s Jared Diamond, which isn’t ideal for U.S. fans given the time difference between the two countries, but access to any live baseball will obviously a welcome addition to many sports fans. The Lions/Dinos will air tonight at 1am EST. Here’s the remaining schedule:
- Wed. May 6: Doosan Bears vs. LG Twins (5:30am EST)
- Thurs. May 7: NC Dinos vs. Samsung Lions (5:30am EST)
- Fri. May 8: KIA Tigers vs. Samsung Lions (5:30am EST)
- Sat. May 9: LG Twins vs. NC Dinos (4am EST)
- Sun. May 10: LG Twins vs. NC Dinos (1am EST)
Games in the KBO are beginning without fans in attendance and with ample health regulations in place. Players will be tested prior to every game and (along with team personnel) will wear masks throughout the arena outside of the field and the dugout. High fives and spitting have been banned. Any player who shows coronavirus symptoms will be quarantined immediately, while a positive test will result in a shutdown of that player’s stadium for a 48-hour cleaning process. A positive test won’t necessarily lead to a leaguewide shutdown, although the league will meet with health experts and government officials to discuss next steps following a positive test.
MLB fans tuning in may recognize some familiar faces; as we covered here two weeks back, there are more than 30 former big league players slated to play in the KBO this season. The Dinos (Aaron Altherr, Mike Wright, Drew Rucinski) and Lions (Seunghwan Oh, Tyler Saladino, Ben Lively, David Buchanan) have seven such players. There are some well-known names in the coaching ranks, too — Matt Williams will manage the KIA Tigers this year, and Julio Franco is the hitting coach for the Lotte Giants. More than 83 percent of the 11,000 respondents in our poll last week said they’d watch some KBO coverage should ESPN (or another media outlet) acquire broadcast rights.