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The bottom line on the World Baseball Classic

From Stefan Fatsis in today's WSJ (hat tip to Carl Bialik), a few salient points:

[T]otal attendance of nearly 740,000 and solid TV ratings in the U.S. and abroad. Baseball executives said the event is expected to turn a profit of $10 million to $15 million. ...

The idea for a tournament including the world's top pros modeled on soccer's World Cup was first presented to baseball owners in 1999. MLB secured agreements from the union, baseball's international governing body, and pro leagues in Japan, South Korea and Taiwan. Two of the 16 participating countries posed hurdles: Japan wanted a bigger cut of profits, and Cuba initially was barred by the State Department.

The tournament cost $45 million to $50 million to stage. MLB and the players' union will divide half of the profits. The other half will go to the participating national federations in order of finish. Japan will get 10% and Cuba 7%; teams that didn't advance past the event's first round will get 1%. The countries have to spend half of their shares on development programs. Most of the rest will go to players. ...

Live games on ESPN attracted an average of 1.4 million viewers. A U.S.-Mexico game last week drew about 2.5 million viewers, nearly double the network's average audience for the National Basketball Association this season.

ESPN paid about $5 million for the rights to the event. Len Deluca, ESPN's senior vice president for programming and acquisitions, said the network could devote more attention to the event next time around. "We did this on three months' notice; we did it with no chance to sell it; we did it with barely a chance to schedule it,'' he said.

The next Classic is planned for 2009, to avoid conflicts with the Olympics and World Cup, and then every four years after that.

With the U.S. performing poorly, American viewers might not take the tournament for granted next time. My hunch is that the U.S.'s failure to make the final four will stimulate interest in the next iteration. I expect the ESPN hype machine to be running full throttle in 2009.

Paul Hagen adds more perspective in the Philadelphia Inquirer. His bottom line? "Give it a solid B-plus. And the bet here is that, as it continues to evolve and needed changes are made, it will get even better."