Wednesday, April 22, 2009

No Fans, Only Money

On the back of the World Baseball Classic (WBC) final appearance, the Korean baseball league has regained fame as one of the most popular sports in Korea, but baseball fans currently do not have any chance to watch baseball games on four sports cable networks after both sides failed to reach a TV rights agreement. / Korea Times File

KBO, Cable TV in Tug of War Over Broadcasting Rights

By Kim Jae-won
Staff Reporter

Armchair baseball fans were blacked out at the weekend after cable broadcasters failed to reach a TV rights agreement with the Korea Baseball Organization.

Eclat Entertainment, the KBO's agency, and the SBS Sports, KBS N, MBC ESPN and Xports networks are at loggerheads over the cost of the deal and the sale of rights to Internet TV companies.

``We are ready to speak with them,'' Eclat Entertainment Chief Executive Officer Hong Won-euy told The Korea Times on Monday.

``They want to cut the money to even less than that of last year,'' Hong said. ``Some of them require us not to sell the rights to Internet Protocol Television (IPTV) companies.''

An Eclat official, who declined to be named, added that ``the cable companies offered one billion won'' while the KBO requires 1.4 billion won for the season.

The broadcasters argue that IPTV can destroy their market.

``The main point is IPTV. It threatens our existence,'' an official of SBS Sports told The Korea Times.

``A million won or two is not that important. It is best for us that the Eclat does not sell the rights to IPTV (companies). If they do sell them, then we also should get some compensation for that.

``We need a reasonable rebate. How can they get broadcasting for free?'' he added.

KBO, the original owner of the broadcasting rights, countered that it has the right to sell them to IPTV.

``We have the rights for broadcasting. Major league does the same,'' a KBO official told The Korea Times. ``The cost is quite cheap compared to other countries,'' He added.

``They want to fill the deficit of airing Japanese baseball and English Premier League (EPL) games. It costs four or five times more than us.''

However, the baseball governing body also got a lot of money through the broadcasting right.

``We made a contract with Eclat Entertainment for a little bit less than 30 billion won for three years last year,'' a KBO official told The Korea Times. ``We accepted the suggestion because they guaranteed they will compensate.''

But as the standoff continues, baseball fans are the losers.
``I want to watch the baseball games on TV. Please solve the problem,'' Park Sung-ho, a baseball fan, wrote on the KBO Web site, Monday.

Meanwhile, Eclat Entertainment and cable channel The One made a deal to broadcast games on the channel the same day. It will broadcast the game between the LG Twins and the Samsung Lions, which takes place in Seoul, Tuesday.

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