The World Baseball Classic begins on Monday morning.
The tournament opener comes from Seoul where South Korea will host Israel. The latter defeated Great Britain in the final of their qualifying tournament last September to reach this stage, so British fans might be forgiven for not wanting to watch what might have been.
However, as things stand, they won’t have to make that choice.
Currently there appears to be no coverage of the WBC on UK television and, as MLB.TV’s coverage is exclusively available to U.S. customers, no other way to watch the event.
The distribution rights for the tournament are held by a company called MP & Silva. Two deals were announced on Thursday regarding coverage in Latin America and Australia, but not details have been forthcoming in regard to Europe.
The 2013 event was shown in the UK on ESPN (now part of the BT Sport stable of channels), with the semi-finals and final also shown on Eurosport the day after they took place. BT Sport would be the realistic home for the WBC as the holder of MLB rights; however no WBC games are on their own TV guide schedule for the next week at time of writing and looking a bit further ahead on other TV schedule sites (Radio Times etc) doesn’t offer any hope either.
It may be that BT Sport and/or Eurosport will show the tail-end of the tournament, but even that is not guaranteed right now.
All of which is a real blow for baseball fans in the UK. None of us would expect there to be a fierce bidding war for baseball rights here, and perhaps Great Britain making it through to the main event would have changed things, yet failing to get the tournament on British TV would be a real negative at a time when MLB is actively seeking to bring games to these shores in the near future.
The MLB.TV blackout is especially frustrating in this context. If we can’t watch the games on TV (nor perhaps baseball fans in other countries), why not allow MLB.TV subscribers to watch them via this method instead?
Maybe there will be a solution from somewhere. Perhaps a deal will be concluded and TV coverage will be available (although that doesn’t look likely, at least for the majority of the event) or maybe once the tournament begins we’ll find that those of us in non-TV coverage territories will be able to watch it online (streamed on YouTube for free etc)?
Or maybe we’ll just be left reading stories and watching post-game highlights?
Considering the WBC is designed to be MLB’s big event to raise global exposure of the sport outside of the States, that would be a huge disappointment for us all.
To bastardize a well-known saying, if the baseball-promoting World Baseball Classic isn’t available for us to watch, does it really promote baseball at all?