In Depth

ESPN, MLB Net Map Plans for World Baseball Classic

ESPN and MLB Network have acquired broadcast rights for the 2009 World Baseball Classic tournament. The second international tournament, scheduled for March 5-23, 2009, will feature baseball players representing 16 different countries and territories competing for the top spot.

As part of the deal ESPN will broadcast 23 tournament games, including the semifinals and final matchups, across its several TV properties, including ESPN, ESPN2 and ESPN Deportes. ESPN also gets English- and Spanish-language radio broadcast rights, in addition to streaming the games live online at ESPN360.com.

MLB Network, which begins airing Jan. 1, 2009, will broadcast 16 tournament games. The network will begin its coverage in late February with “World Baseball Classic Tonight,” a series featuring news, highlights, commentary, profiles and history leading up to the Classic. Additionally, MLB Network will air the “World Baseball Classic Selection Show” announcing the participating teams’ player rosters.

Participating countries and territories are Australia, Canada, China, Chinese Taipei, Cuba, Dominican Republic, Italy, Japan, Korea, Mexico, the Netherlands, Panama, Puerto Rico, South Africa, the United States and Venezuela.

Round 1 games will be held in Tokyo, Mexico City, Toronto and San Juan, Puerto Rico. Semifinals will take place in San Diego and Miami, and the finals in Los Angeles.

The first World Baseball Classic in 2006 also featured 16 teams from around the world. More than 24 million viewers watched the tournament on ESPN in the U.S.

World Baseball Classic Inc., created by Major League Baseball and the Major League Baseball Players Association, plans to hold the tournament every four years, with the next one planned for 2013 with an expanded pool of participating countries and territories.