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Report: Korea Baseball Organization and ESPN closing in on US media rights deal

We could see a deal where ESPN and the KBO come to a profit sharing arrangement to broadcast pro baseball during the Covid-19 pandemic.

Doosan bears team players practice ahead of the preseason game between LG Twins and Doosan Bears at Jamsil Baseball Stadium on April 21, 2020 in Seoul, South Korea. Photo by Chung Sung-Jun/Getty Images

According to the Yonhap News Agency in South Korea, ESPN and the Korea Baseball Organization are getting close on a media rights deal where KBO games would be shown in the USA as soon as next week.

The 10-team KBO is scheduled to start playing their regular season on May 5th, and will be the second league in Asia to start playing after the Chinese Professional Baseball League in Taiwan. The KBO is considered the third-best top flight league in the world after Major League Baseball and Nippon Professional Baseball in Japan.

The reported negotiations are taking place between Eclat Media Group, the international rights holder for the KBO, and the Worldwide Leader in Sports. Those negotiations were thought to be dead last week as ESPN was apparently looking for free programming only, but their stance has changed on the matter.

Both the KBO and Eclat balked at the initial ESPN demand for free rights. One source said there was “a feeling of being disrespected among KBO ranks.” One KBO official said the league would rather not have Eclat shoulder production costs just to put games on ESPN.

Since then, ESPN has apparently changed its stance. ESPN first indicated interest in KBO games earlier this month amid its struggles to fill dead air, with the coronavirus pandemic having put all professional and amateur sports on hold.

If this is the case, we could be one step closer to actual baseball on our tv’s very soon. And as we have shown before, Korean baseball can be a lot more fun than the stateside product.