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Written by Maury Brown   
Wednesday, 24 December 2008 17:22

MLB NetworkOne week from tomorrow, the MLB Network launches to approximately 50 million homes, the largest cable channel launch in history.

The launch also comes during the throws of the worst economic downturn in 80 years, highlighting difficulties that are facing the broadcast industry.

According to a report in this week’s SportsBusiness Journal, MLB Network has been working on attracting advertisers through existing league corporate sponsors, although the network has yet to announce any formal deals. The new network is exploring integrated sponsorship avenues through programming content.

As reported by the SBJ:

“We’re not unique from any other sports entity,” said Bill Morningstar, MLB Network executive vice president of advertising and sales. “We have room to have really significant relationships with our league partners.”

For example, the network could create programming around the All-Star Game’s State Farm Home Run Derby that provides on-screen sponsorship opportunities for the insurance company, from preview shows to highlights from previous years.

The report outlines that this year, more than maybe any year past, landing sponsors in the recession is a difficult task.

“There’s no Christmas for me,” Morningstar said. “This is clearly a challenging, unprecedented time [economically]. What helps me sleep at night is the knowledge that we’re looking to build an asset, not just for 2009, but for decades afterward.”

While sponsorships for MLB Network may be a difficult task early on, the Network does have an advantage that another channel launch may not have: deep subscriber-fee revenues. With the launch reaching 50 million households, MLB Network should be able to weather any early difficulties in filling ad space due to the locked in fees being paid by carriers.

As for carriers, word is beginning to trickle out as to where on your menu you might find the upcoming MLB Network.

  • In the New York area, Cablevision 149 and Cablevision HD Channel 790 is already showing a teaser loop of what the channel will be like.
  • Neil Best of Newsday reports that Verizon FiOS will be broadcasting on Channel 86.
  • Time Warner New York City will be on channels 174 and 783(HD)
  • For DirecTV users, they will be able to find MLB Network on Channel 213 (it is unknown as of publication if this is an HD channel, or not)
  • Those in the Tampa Bay area that have Bright House Networks will be able to get the all-baseball network on Channel 159 for digital users and Channel 744 for HDTV
  • In the New Jersey area (Comcast Of Central NJ II - Somerset), MLB Net can be seen on Channel 280

For those wondering if MLB Network is broadcasting in their area, will shortly have a page in which users can enter their zip code to find all the carriers in your location along with the corresponding channels

NOTE: If you know of a channel not listed here where MLB Network is slated to be shown, please post it in the comments.

Maury BrownMaury Brown is the Founder and President of the Business of Sports Network, which includes The Biz of Baseball, The Biz of Football, The Biz of Basketball and The Biz of Hockey. He is contributor to Baseball Prospectus, and is available as a freelance writer. Brown's full bio is here. He looks forward to your comments via email and can be contacted through the Business of Sports Network.

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