Yonhap News is reporting that ESPN’s attempt to acquire broadcasting rights to the KBO League, South Korea’s major baseball league, might be coming up short due to ESPN wanting the rights for free.
My colleague at Yonhap News, reporting in Korean, said ESPN has asked KBO's international rights holder, Eclat, for free feed of KBO games. That's a no go from Eclat's standpoint, and talks on broadcasting KBO games in the U.S. haven't gone anywhere.
— Jeeho Yoo (@Jeeho_1) April 23, 2020
ESPN’s desire to show Korean baseball was understandable given the lack of ongoing American sports, but free broadcasting rights are quite an outlandish request. The KBO has practically all of the leverage in this scenario given that ESPN has the need for content, and the league has that content. It’s unclear where exactly ESPN got the idea that they could somehow show KBO games without having to pay for the right to do so.
The KBO is aiming to start play next month and is generally regarded as having a higher level of play than Taiwan’s CPBL, which right now is the only game in town.
Needless to say, this is a disappointing development. Korean baseball is a whole lot of fun and would have been a welcome addition to the airwaves. Hopefully the two sides can come to an equitable arrangement.