While professional sports remain cancelled in North America due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Korea Baseball Organization (KBO) of South Korea launched its 2020 season on May 5 in spectator-free stadiums. Thanks to a deal finalized with ESPN just ahead of the season, US baseball fans will be able to see English-language broadcasts of select games.
Sports-deprived social media users have already declared themselves bandwagon fans of the first-place Lotte Giants. Meanwhile, Canadian fans have been left out of the fun, as it seems neither TSN nor Rogers SportsNet, the major sports broadcasters in Canada, have reached a deal with the KBO and/or ESPN to carry the ESPN broadcasts. The only live sports event to be broadcasted recently on a Canadian network was the UFC 249 prelims, which aired on TSN on Saturday, May 9.
Canadian viewers who previously used sites like Twitch or Naver to watch KBO games have also been geoblocked out of viewing local broadcasts, according to discussions on Reddit. I verified for myself that I am not able to access the KBO’s Twitch channel thanks to geographic restrictions.
While a non-US network was reportedly interested in acquiring the rights to broadcast KBO games in late April, no deal has yet been announced in Canada.
While I admit I am a night owl and stay up too late, sitting down to watch three hours of baseball starting at 1 am or later isn’t really a possibility. I would love to have the opportunity to watch a delayed broadcast of KBO games. I believe Rogers SportsNet could boost its viewership significantly by carrying these broadcasts, given that its content has suffered dramatically thanks to the loss of Blue Jays and NBA games. Its original sports shows and content library are much poorer than TSN’s and adding live baseball could bring back viewers who are either watching TSN or not watching at all.