- ESPN reportedly approached the Korean Baseball Organization about broadcasting games to an American audience
- ESPN and sports fans in the US are eager for live sports
- Preseason games in South Korea are slated to begin April 21, with the regular season likely opening in May
The Yonhap News Agency reported Tuesday that ESPN has approached the Korean Baseball Organization (KBO) about the possibility of airing South Korean games in the United States. No firm details of any potential deal have come forth as of yet, and ESPN’s interest in airing the games was described as “passing.”
ESPN, of course, is trying to find ways to fill airtime as all professional and college sports in the United States are currently on hold. The broadcasting giant holds the rights to broadcast Major League Baseball games, but there is no telling when MLB’s 2020 season will be able to get underway.
KBO Season To Start in May
The KBO was forced to delay the beginning of its season for similar reasons, but they are on the verge of being ready to play. South Korea’s response to the public health crisis was much more organized than the response in the US, which is why the country is already starting to resume everyday life in many ways.
South Korean teams have been able to practice and play intrasquad scrimmages in recent days, which have been streamed by teams on YouTube. Baseball fans in the US are eager to watch any live action they can get their hands on, so it should come as no surprise that ESPN may have interest in broadcasting some games.
KBO operatives are optimistic that the league will be able to play a full 144-game season after the brief delay to start the campaign. No firm start date has been set, but the league is hoping to get underway sometime in the middle of May. It is believed that the games will be played in front of empty stadiums for the time being.
A Yonhap source said, “ESPN first asked MLB to put them in touch with the KBO. Then they 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.”
Hurdles to Clear for ESPN
Yonhap additionally reported that ESPN has reached out to a local agency that owns the overseas broadcasting rights to KBO games, but that the discussions haven’t advanced very far. Due to international travel restrictions, it is highly unlikely that ESPN would be able to send American broadcasters to South Korea in order to broadcast the games in person.
In all likelihood, any American broadcasters would have to watch the games on a monitor and broadcast from a studio within the US.
The Taiwanese baseball league (CPBL) officially started its 2020 season on April 12 in front of empty stadiums.
KBO’s preseason action is slated to get underway on April 21. There are certainly plenty of obstacles in place when it comes to broadcasting games live in the United States, but ESPN securing the ability to do so would bring some welcome relief to American baseball fans and bettors alike. For now, bettors are having to resort to unconventional options like eSports and Belarusian soccer in order to get their fix.
Time zones would seem to be the most obvious hurdle. South Korea is 13 hours ahead of the Eastern Time Zone in the United States, which means night games would typically take place in the early morning hours for the US. ESPN has dealt with these issues in the past, though, as a number of MLB games have taken place in Asia and other parts of the world over the years.