Broadcasters ask KBO to pay damages caused by Covid cancellations
The four biggest professional baseball broadcasters — KBSN, MBC PLUS, SBS Media Net and SPOTV — have officially asked the KBO to pay for damages caused after matches were postponed due to a Covid-19 outbreak in the middle of the season.
This July, the KBO postponed all 30 games scheduled from July 13 to July 18 due to a Covid-19 outbreak.
The outbreak was triggered by three members of the NC Dinos, who tested positive for Covid-19 after four Dinos players — Park Sok-min, Kwon Hui-dong, Lee Myung-ki and Park Min-woo — breached Covid regulations by gathering in a Seoul hotel room with two acquaintances to eat chicken and drink beer ahead of a match against the Doosan Bears. Two members of the Doosan Bears also tested positive for Covid-19.
These outbreaks led to two series being completely canceled and a third being interrupted. A total of 90 games could have been canceled if it were not for the international break that started on July 19 in preparation for the 2020 Tokyo Summer Olympics. Instead, the KBO missed out on the two series scheduled for each team.
The four broadcasting companies sent an official request on Monday afternoon asking for compensation for damages caused by the postponement of the season. The request was sent to the KBO president, the KBO's marketing subsidiary KBOP and all 10 KBO clubs.
The document states that the suspension of the season had incurred tremendous damages to the broadcasters, who planned their broadcast schedules and advertisement sales based on the KBO’s Covid-19 manual and match schedules.
According to the KBO’s Covid-19 manual, it is stated that matches still should have continued excluding the infected players and those in self-isolation. However, the KBO board of directors decided unilaterally to push the remaining 30 matches to after the international break. At the time, the KBO said that it was impossible for the season to continue with two Doosan Bears players having tested positive and 17 players in self-isolation and three NC Dinos players testing positive and 15 players and 10 staff members in self-isolation.
Broadcasters claim that the suspension of the season in addition to the fact that the postponement was due to a players’ gathering that violated health protocols drove baseball fans away, resulting in viewer ratings dropping more than 30 percent even when play resumed.
Additionally, to meet the suspended schedule, matches were played during the day time when advertising demand is low, overtime was abolished in matches and games were played in doubleheaders, adding to the hit the broadcasters took.
The 2021 playoffs have also been shortened, with both the first and second round of the playoffs cut from a best-of-five series to a best-of-three series. The Korean Series alone follows the standard format — best-of-seven — with broadcasters expending considerable losses from the lack of postseason baseball.
The specific amount of compensation requested is not mentioned in Monday's document. However, it does request that a specific reparation plan be established based on the broadcasting rights contract that states that the other party should be compensated for property and other damages caused by negligence-based acts.
“Broadcasters pay the KBO 54 billion won ($46 million) a year, but the decision to suspend the season was made without any discussion,” said a broadcast official.
The KBO are now looking over the requests and discussing how to handle the situation.
"It is true that we lost many spectators in the stands due to Covid-19,” said a KBO official who refused to disclose their name. “I knew it was a difficult situation for the broadcasters, but this is the first time they have asked for reparation for damages. We will need to examine the situation first.”
BY BAE JUNG-HYUNE, YUN SO-HYANG [firstname.lastname@example.org]