(ATTN: CHANGES dateline; ADDS details from ESPN's release in paras 2, 4-5, 11-12)
By Yoo Jee-ho
SEOUL, May 5 (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 and six games per week, 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.
In its own press release, ESPN said it will become "the exclusive English-language home" for live KBO games, and the deal covers the postseason and the Korean Series, the best-of-seven championship final here. Games will mostly air on ESPN2 and on the ESPN APP.
ESPN will announce its game selections on a week-to-week basis. It added that its play-by-play voices, analysts and reporters will provide commentary in English, remotely, from their home studios. The group will include Karl Ravech, Jon Sciambi, Eduardo Perez, Jessica Mendoza and Kyle Peterson.
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.
KBO highlights will air on SportsCenter and other news programming on ESPN.
The broadcaster added that highlights from all KBO games will be available and are not limited to the games ESPN will televise. ESPN.com will also document the 2020 season in South Korea.
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.
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