ESPN Goes Outside Its Usual Strike Zone, Setting South Korean Baseball Rights Deal

Sports-starved ESPN has reached a deal with Eclat Media Group to televise six weekly games played by the Korean Baseball Organization.

The U.S. rights deal will kick off at 1AM ET on Tuesday with an opening-day telecast on ESPN, with a lead-in from SportsCenter with Scott Van Pelt.

Major League Baseball, which typically supplies dozens of hours of weekly programming to ESPN, has been sidelined by the coronavirus pandemic, along with other college and pro sports. South Korea has won acclaim for how it has managed the pandemic, emerging on the other side with a more sustained reopening than other parts of Asia.

One game will air weekday mornings at 5:30AM ET from Tuesday to Friday and then Saturdays at 4AM ET and Sundays at 1AM ET, generally on ESPN2 and on the ESPN app. The telecasts will air Tuesdays-Fridays at 5:30 a.m. ET, Saturdays at 4 a.m. ET and Sundays at 1 a.m. ET.

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ESPN play-by-play voices, analysts and reporters will do commentary in English, remotely, from their home studios. ESPN baseball commentators contributing to KBO League coverage include Karl Ravech, Jon Sciambi, Eduardo Perez, Jessica Mendoza and Kyle Peterson. Ravech and Perez will call the season opener as well as the May 6 and May 7 games.

Under the deal, ESPN will become the exclusive English-language home for KBO League live games and highlights for the 2020 season, including the postseason and the Korea Series, a best-of-seven title matchup.

“We’re thrilled to become the exclusive English-language home to the KBO League and to showcase its compelling action and high-level of competition,” ESPN EVP of programming Burke Magnus said. “We have a longstanding history of documenting the game of baseball and we’re excited to deliver these live events to sports fans.”

Added Un-Chan Chung, commissioner of the KBO, “The KBO League is one of the greatest baseball leagues with world-class players and many exciting initiatives. During this unprecedented and difficult time, I hope the KBO League can bring consolation to the communities and provide guidelines to the world of sports. I am pleased that the KBO League can be introduced globally and hope this can be an opportunity for the development of our league and the sport.”

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