Major League Baseball announced today that iN DEMAND has entered into a seven-year agreement in principle to carry the MLB EXTRA INNINGS subscription package of out-of-market games and will distribute the MLB Channel, which is scheduled to launch in January 2009.
The MLB EXTRA INNINGS subscription package of out-of-market games is currently available to DIRECTV subscribers. iN DEMAND owners Comcast, Cox Communications and Time Warner Cable have agreed to carry the package, effective immediately. iN DEMAND also will offer to make the MLB Extra Innings subscription package available to other cable companies across the U.S. Like all distributors of MLB Extra Innings, these cable operators would also be required to carry the MLB Channel once it is launched.
The MLB Channel will be the first and only network dedicated to providing baseball programming to MLB fans 24 hours a day, seven days a week on a year-round basis. Major League Baseball's partnerships with DIRECTV and iN DEMAND mean the MLB Channel is expected to launch in 40 million homes.
"Our chief goal throughout the process was to ensure that fans would have access to as many baseball games and as much baseball coverage as possible," said MLB President and Chief Operating Officer Bob DuPuy. "With this agreement, the MLB Channel will launch with an unprecedented platform. We are pleased with the launch of the MLB Channel to so many homes coupled with our agreement to extend the distribution of MLB Extra Innings with iN DEMAND."
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As further reported by Cable 360 :
Robert Jacobson, president and CEO of In Demand Networks, a consortium owned by cable operators Comcast, Cox Communications and Time Warner Cable—said in a statement this evening: "We couldn’t be happier that we have reached an agreement with Major League Baseball and are able to make these games available to baseball fans as we have for the past five years."
Added DirecTV president and CEO Chase Carey:
"We are extremely pleased with our revised agreement," said Carey. "It recognizes DirecTV's role in this process by providing us unique financial benefits in Extra Innings, a leadership equity position in the MLB Channel, an ability to develop expanded features available only to DirecTV customers as well as exclusivity of MLB Extra Innings against satellite and other key cable competitors.”
UPDATE 2007-04-04 21:24:47 PDT:
The Hollywood Reporter adds:
Echostar, owner of Dish Network, couldn't be reached for comment. MLB was still in negotiations over Extra Innings with Dish, according to multiple sources.
Ronald Blum of the AP adds:
IN Demand began making games available to cable systems in progress starting at 8 p.m. EDT Wednesday, president Robert Jacobson said. The package will be available for $159 this year through a free preview period that will extend into next week, he said, but the 2007 price for those subscribing after that has not been set.
"I'm exhausted but happy," Jacobson said. "We always needed to feel like we were treated fairly relative to the other distributor. We felt like got our fair share."
As part of the agreement, iN Demand and DirecTV each will receive about 16 percent equity in the new network, a person familiar with the deal said, speaking on condition of anonymity because that detail wasn't announced. Under the original agreement, DirecTV was to be a 20 percent owner.
UPDATE 2007-04-04 23:47:38 PDT:
Richard Sandomir of the NY Times reports:
InDemand will make the package available [Thursday] to other cable operators like Cablevision and Charter, who must make individual deals.
The Dish Network, DirecTV’s satellite rival, has not made a deal. “No one is locked out,” said Tim Brosnan, an executive vice president of M.L.B. But Dish said in a statement that baseball’s terms were too costly and that it was not optimistic that it could reach a fair deal.
According to the report, between iN Demand and DirecTV, there will be 40 million subscribers to The Baseball Channel when it launches in 2009.
Baseball will benefit further from its majority share of the estimated $120 million in annual gross subscriber fees that the channel will generate.
MAURY BROWN WILL BE ON XM 175'S BASEBALL BEAT WITH CHARLEY STEINER AT 2:25PM EDT (11:25AM PDT) TOMORROW (THURS.)