MLB, ESPN To Carry World Baseball Classic

Seeking programming to fill its unending available hours, the MLB Network has reached a deal to carry a portion of an international World Cup-style baseball event. ESPN will also air a slew of games, including the final.

The World Baseball Classic this March has 16 countries competing. ESPN televised the first tournament two years ago.

This round, ESPN's 23 games will run across its family of networks. The network also has acquired online live streaming rights and will carry radio broadcasts in both English and Spanish.

The popularity of the event--with at least two teams not necessarily identified with baseball, Italy and South Africa--is still in question. ESPN will apparently use the games, in part, as counter-programming against March Madness.

The MLB Network launches Jan. 1 and will carry 16 WBC games. It will also air what appears to be a made-for-MLB-Network event: a selection show where the rosters of the 16 teams are announced. Aside from the teams from the U.S., Japan, Dominican Republic, Puerto Rico and perhaps Venezuela, which all boast Major League stars, viewers could find the names unknown.

The semifinals and final will be on ESPN March 21-23 from Los Angeles.



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