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New KBO commissioner hoping for another broadcast deal with ESPN

All News 15:45 January 05, 2021

By Yoo Jee-ho

SEOUL, Jan. 5 (Yonhap) -- South Korean baseball enjoyed an unprecedented level of international exposure last year, thanks to daily broadcasts on the U.S. cable giant ESPN and its affiliates around the world.

And the new head of the Korea Baseball Organization (KBO) said Tuesday he hopes the partnership will be extended for another season.

Chung Ji-taik, new commissioner of the Korea Baseball Organization (KBO), speaks at his inauguration ceremony at the KBO headquarters in Seoul on Jan. 5, 2021, in this photo provided by the KBO. (PHOTO NOT FOR SALE) (Yonhap)

"Having our brand of baseball introduced to the rest of the world through ESPN last year was quite significant," said Chung Ji-taik in a press conference following his inauguration ceremony Tuesday. "We'll look to maintain and expand our deal with ESPN."

With the start of the Major League Baseball (MLB) season pushed back by nearly four months due to the COVID-19 pandemic, ESPN, one of the national MLB rights holders, sought to fill air time with KBO games. ESPN's deal with Eclat, the Korean company with international distribution rights to KBO games, was announced on May 4 last year, the eve of the KBO's Opening Day.

This image, captured from ESPN's website on May 7, 2020, shows the promotional logo for Korea Baseball Organization games available on the U.S. sports cable station. (PHOTO NOT FOR SALE) (Yonhap)

The truncated MLB season started in July, but ESPN continued to carry KBO games -- one game per day during the regular season and all postseason games in November.

"We have to go beyond just promoting Korean baseball," Chung said. "We have to blaze new trails and promote our culture all over the world."

Chung Ji-taik, new commissioner of the Korea Baseball Organization (KBO), speaks at his inauguration ceremony at the KBO headquarters in Seoul on Jan. 5, 2021, in this photo provided by the KBO. (PHOTO NOT FOR SALE) (Yonhap)

Following Chung's press conference, a KBO official clarified that any international broadcast deal would be ultimately up to Eclat but said the league is definitely interested in reaching viewers outside South Korea once again.

"Even if it's not through ESPN, we'll still try to find ways to market our games internationally," the official said. "If the start of the major league season is delayed again this year, maybe ESPN will show interest in KBO games again."

Chung Ji-taik (C), new commissioner of the Korea Baseball Organization (KBO), is flanked by CEOs of KBO clubs during a photo session following his inauguration ceremony at the KBO headquarters in Seoul on Jan. 5, 2021, in this photo provided by the KBO. From left: Min Kyung-sam of the SK Wyverns, Chun Poong of the Doosan Bears, Hwang Soon-hyun of the NC Dinos, Chung, Lee Kyu-hong of the LG Twins, Nam Sang-bong of the KT Wiz, and Park Chan-hyeok of the Hanwha Eagles. (PHOTO NOT FOR SALE) (Yonhap)

jeeho@yna.co.kr
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