“We’re going into this the same way if you’re an English major going into a math exam,” ESPN’s most prominent MLB talking head says when it comes to covering Korean Baseball. Karl Ravech sat down with Michael McCarthy of Front Office Sports this week to discuss the challenge of calling games from halfway around the world in the middle of the night.
His hope is that MLB fans take to the Korea Baseball Organization the way they have historically taken to the Little League and College World Series. Fans start out curious and by the end are well-educated.
“By the end of it, you understand who the best players are. You can talk about the best pitchers from Vanderbilt and the best infielders from LSU that literally, three weeks prior to that, the majority of people couldn’t talk about. I’m assuming and hoping that’s what happens here.”
McCarthy asked Ravech what he expects from the atmosphere. One of the KBO’s hallmarks has been the enthusiastic environment around games. Players routinely flip their bats regardless of the outcome of their plate appearances. Cheerleaders dance on top of dugouts.
Can such an environment break through with an American audience if there are no fans in the stands to create the excitement those elements usually would?
“Probably the most unique aspect of Korean baseball is actually the fans. It doesn’t matter if you’re up by six or down by 10. They will do their ritual. They will dance and they will sing. They don’t pay much attention to the scoreboard and let that dictate their energy and enthusiasm. We’ll miss that part of it.”
In terms of the quality of play, Ravech says the KBO is not on par with the top league in Japan. By comparison to the American game, Ravech puts the talent in the KBO somewhere between Double-A and Triple-A.
Baseball’s most outspoken American fans are notoriously stodgy about the game’s “unwritten rules.” Any time a player flips a bat after a big home run, you can log onto social media and see the fun police out in full force demanding that player be drilled in the head in his next at bat for daring to smile.
Ravech says those kind of fans may not like all of the bat flipping they see in the KBO, but it will definitely create conversation about the league and its games.
“Whether it originated in Korea, let’s just say they’ve mastered it. There is a high finish. And the bat never comes back down until it lands on the ground after it’s been thrown. They’re into that very high finish. Bat leaves the hand when they believe they hit a home run. That’s all over YouTube and everywhere else – and it will be part of our telecast tonight. Yes, you’re 100% right to suggest that bat flips are something people will absolutely be talking about.”
On Monday, ESPN announced a deal that would see six KBO games air on ESPN2 every week. Games will be carried in the overnight hours every Tuesday through Sunday with ESPN’s top name baseball talent calling the action from their home studios.
David Kaplan Leaving NBC Sports Chicago
“I was presented an opportunity that will allow me to spend a lot more time my wife, Mindy, our four sons, and their expanding families. This is far from a retirement.”
David Kaplan has announced he is departing NBC Sports Chicago. In a video posted to his YouTube channel, Kaplan said a new path opened that he couldn’t turn down.
“I was presented an opportunity that will allow me to spend a lot more time my wife, Mindy, our four sons, and their expanding families. This is far from a retirement. You’ll still be able to catch me weekday mornings with Jonathan Hood on the Kap and JHood morning show on ESPN 1000. It will also allow me to provide you with more engaging and outstanding content right here on YouTube.”
Kaplan, who will turn 62 this weekend, accepted a buyout offered by NBCUniversal. He has hosted several different shows for the network during his tenure.
“He’s made enormous contributions to our network, and his passion, opinions and love of Chicago’s teams have made him a beloved and respected figure, not just with fans but also his colleagues,” NBC Sports Chicago Vice President of Content John Schippman told The Chicago Sun-Times. “We wish him the best and look forward to seeing what’s next.”
December 30th will be his final day at NBC Sports Chicago. He called his time with the network “an amazing run”.
NASCAR Chasing Nearly $1 Billion Annual Rights Fee In Next TV Deal
“We work really closely together, both from a scheduling perspective, but also just in terms of how they monetize the sport.”
The current media rights deal for NASCAR with FOX Sports and NBC Sports doesn’t end until after the 2024 season, but the organization is currently plotting what it wants its next deal to look like, according to a report from Front Office Sports.
Currently, NASCAR makes $820 million per year from the two networks. In its new rights deal, it is expected to seek a deal in the neighborhood of $900-950 million range.
NASCAR plans to begin negotiating with its current media partners in the early months of 2023, but is currently happy with FOX and NBC.
“We work really closely together, both from a scheduling perspective, but also just in terms of how they monetize the sport. Whether that’s pushing more brands and advertisers to spend on Fox and NBC,” NASCAR Senior Vice President of Media and Productions Brian Herbst told FOS. “Fox had their third consecutive year of ad revenue increases in 2022. NBC had their second consecutive year of ad revenue increases in 2022. So it’s working for them — both from a viewership and an ad revenue perspective.”
In February of this year, NASCAR President Steve Phelps told the Marchand and Ourand Sports Media Podcast that broadcast television “has to be a part” of the organization’s next television rights deal.
As its current media partners, FOX and NBC have exclusive negotiating windows with NASCAR.
NFL Sunday Ticket Negotiations With Apple ‘Have Gotten Silly’
“Apple’s like, ‘OK, we can’t sell internationally. OK, that was important to us. And we can’t sell it exclusively against Fox and CBS. Well, OK. Well, that changes its value.’”
A report from The Athletic details why the NFL has not announced a new partner for the NFL Sunday Ticket package. David Kaplan claims there have been continued hiccups in the negotiations, mentioning the bargaining has gotten sideways between the league and Apple.
“This negotiation has gotten silly. … Clearly, there’s a problem. I think it’s really clear Apple is learning things they didn’t know,” the anonymous NFL source told Kaplan. “What the conversation is, is Apple’s like, ‘OK, we can’t sell internationally. OK, that was important to us. And we can’t sell it exclusively against Fox and CBS. Well, OK. Well, that changes its value.’”
The report also details Amazon Prime and YouTube remain in the mix as potential suitors for the service, should talks with Apple and the league fall apart.
The NFL is looking for as much as $3.5 billion annually for rights to the service.