ESPN, MLB Network Split World Baseball Classic Rights

ESPN and the Major League Baseball Network will split television rights to the 2009 World Baseball Classic.

ESPN held the exclusive broadcast rights to the first installment of the tournament, held in 2006. For the 2009 installment, being held March 5-23, ESPN will televise 23 games, and will also stream many of the games live on its web video platform,

For MLB Network, the Classic will serve as a test run leading up to the regular season. With the network launching January 1, the Classic will give the channel’s production and studio teams a chance to mesh and handle live and taped games before the regular season gets underway. MLB Network will televise 16 games, and will also launch a nightly wrapup show, World Baseball Classic Tonight and a selection show announcing the rosters.

“It was a simple calculus that produced our agreement with ESPN to broadcast once again the World Baseball Classic,” said Gene Orza, Major League Baseball Players Association Chief Operating Officer, in a statement. “ESPN recognized that the second Classic promises to be even more captivating than the first, and we recognized that the excitement of the games demanded partnering with the premier sports broadcaster in the world. And we’re thrilled that MLB Network will be joining us too. The Network has in place a team with great ideas and ingenuity, and its programming will only further solidify the tournament’s place as the ultimate in international baseball.”

The World Baseball Classic, first held in 2006, is a tournament featuring teams from 16 countries.

The opening round will be played entirely outside of the Unites States, at The Tokyo Dome in Tokyo, to which ESPN has exclusive rights, Estadio Foro Sol in Mexico City, to which MLB Network has exclusive rights, as well as at the Rogers Centre in Toronto Canada and at Hiram Bithorn Stadium in San Juan Puerto Rico, to which the networks will split coverage.

Financial terms of the deals were not announced.