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September 20, 2017

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Broadcasting dispute could harm the future of the CPBL

It has seemed like professional baseball in Taiwan is enjoying a rosier outlook since the local Chinese Professional Baseball League (CPBL, 中華職棒) announced this January that MP & Silva, an international media rights company, won the rights to broadcast league games for the next six years with a landmark NT$2.1 billion deal.

The broadcasting deal with the London-based company includes it in an impressive portfolio, including FIFA World Cup rights and the rights to Europe's top soccer leagues, which is certainly good news for the CBPL as the move could enhance its international reach.

The historic deal also means that each of the four CPBL teams will receive NT$86 million per year, a huge surge from around NT$50 million a year before, a significant boost to help with the teams' financial losses.

It seemed everything was going well for the CPBL and that Taiwan professional baseball was embracing a brighter future.

But sadly, things turned out differently than we expected.

The unexpected turn began as MP & Silva announced that they had chosen to partner with the Sportcast channel (博斯運動網) in broadcasting the CPBL's ongoing 25th-year season games instead of with Videoland Sports Channel (緯來體育台), a cable TV channel and broadcaster of CPBL for the past 17 years.

The decision means that most Taiwanese fans will be unable to watch CPBL games on the local cable TV network that reaches nearly 60 percent of Taiwanese households for the first time in nearly two decades.

Subscribers to Chunghwa Telecom's (中華電信) multimedia-on-demand (MOD) digital TV service can watch the Sportcast channel, but MOD only has a reach of around 1.5 million Taiwanese households.

The channel is also available on very few cable TV networks around the country.

The latest decision has drawn criticism from many Taiwanese fans. Netizens said the announcement would make it very inconvenient for them to watch CPBL games.

Even for MOD subscribers, one still has to pay extra money to subscribe to the Sportcast channel, adding an extra cost burden for CPBL fans, they argued.

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