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(LEAD) ESPN to broadcast S. Korean baseball games

00:01 May 05, 2020

(ATTN: ADDS details from 4th para, photo)
By Yoo Jee-ho

SEOUL, May 4 (Yonhap) -- The U.S. sports cable giant ESPN will broadcast South Korean baseball games to its American audience, starting with the first day of the season on Tuesday.

The Korea Baseball Organization (KBO) announced Monday that ESPN has struck a deal with Eclat, the Korean company with international distribution rights to KBO games. ESPN will air one game per day, with an Opening Day game between the Samsung Lions and the NC Dinos leading things off. The game is set to begin at 2 p.m. Tuesday Korean time, or 1 a.m. Tuesday Eastern Standard Time (EST).

The KBO said ESPN will also offer KBO highlights.

LG Twins players train at Jamsil Stadium in Seoul on May 4, 2020, the eve of the 2020 Opening Day for the Korea Baseball Organization. (Yonhap)

Financial terms and the length of the deal weren't immediately available.

The announcement came on the eve of the first day of the KBO season. It was slated to begin on March 28 but was pushed back by more than a month due to the coronavirus outbreak.

The COVID-19 pandemic brought Major League Baseball (MLB) to a halt during spring training in March. With the majors still grounded, ESPN, struggling to fill dead air, first indicated interest in KBO games in early April.

ESPN initially asked to broadcast KBO games for free, much to the chagrin of Eclat and the KBO. But then on April 27, an informed industry source told Yonhap News Agency that ESPN and Eclat were close to completing their deal, following an apparent breakthrough in their negotiations.

After Tuesday's game, ESPN will show the all-Seoul showdown between the Doosan Bears and the LG Twins at 5:30 a.m. EST. Upcoming games are the Dinos vs. the Lions at 5:30 a.m. EST Thursday, the Kia Tigers vs. the Lions at 5:30 a.m. EST Friday, the Twins vs. the Dinos at 4 a.m. EST Saturday and the Twins vs. the Dinos at 1 a.m. EST Sunday.

The KBO is the second professional baseball league to begin during the pandemic, following the Chinese Professional Baseball League in Taiwan.

The KBO also announced its games will be available in Japan through SPOZONE (www.spozone.jp). According to the KBO, the Japanese site will be airing two games a day, starting with Opening Day action, and it will gradually increase the number of games available per day.

This photo shows SK Happy Dream Park in Incheon, 40 kilometers west of Seoul, on May 4, 2020, the eve of the 2020 Opening Day for the Korea Baseball Organization. (Yonhap)



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