ESPN, Major League Baseball and the MLB Players Association announced an agreement for ESPN, ESPN2 and ESPN Syndication to have exclusive domestic English-language broadcast rights to the inaugural World Baseball Classic in March. The World Baseball Classic (WBC) will match baseball teams from 16 countries and territories in a bracket-style tournament to be played in Tokyo, Puerto Rico and venues throughout the United States this spring from March 3 to March 20.
ESPN and ESPN2 will offer 16 live telecasts, concluding with the semifinals and finals on ESPN March 18 and March 20. ESPN Syndication will syndicate 14 games to a variety of English-language outlets and is currently in discussion with domestic local over-the-air networks and cable outlets that televise sports.
ESPN International will provide coverage in Latin America, Australia, New Zealand, Africa, the Middle East and Israel. ESPN Deportes, ESPN’s Spanish-language network in the U.S., will be the only network to televise all 39 games of the inaugural Classic. Traug Keller, ESPN senior VP, ESPN Deportes and ESPN Radio, added, “This agreement is a grand slam for ESPN Deportes, as we solidify our leadership position in bringing Spanish-language baseball telecasts to Hispanic sports fans throughout the United States.”
ESPN will also have footage rights for all its new media platforms including Mobile ESPN (the company’s new branded mobile phone), ESPN.com, ESPNdeportes.com and ESPN 360 (broadband). ESPN Radio will broadcast the semifinals and finals live.
WBC, Inc. has organized this first global baseball event in conjunction with the national organizing bodies of the 16 countries and territories. Currently, top Major League Baseball players such as Derek Jeter, Roger Clemens, Ken Griffey, Jr. and Alex Rodriguez are on the roster for the United States team.
Gene Orza, chief operating officer of the Major League Baseball Players Association, stated, “We’re delighted we could reach agreement with ESPN on what will prove to be, I’m confident, historic telecasts of the sport. There is a style and intensity that ESPN brings to baseball that makes this agreement the perfect fit for the inaugural games.”