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Costas to Interview Ripken on 70th Anniversary of Gehrig Speech Print
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Written by Maury Brown   
Wednesday, 01 July 2009 14:13


MLB Network’s Studio 42 with Bob Costas will host an interview with Hall of Famer Cal Ripken Jr. that will air on July 5 at 8:00 p.m. ET on MLB Network. The interview discusses the 70th anniversary on Saturday, July 4 of Hall of Famer Lou Gehrig’s famous farewell speech at Yankee Stadium, as well as Ripken’s thoughts on Gehrig and his legendary record for consecutive games played. Immediately following the interview, MLB Network will air the Academy Award-winning film “Pride of the Yankees, the story of Gehrig’s life and career starring two-time Academy Award-winner Gary Cooper, at 9:00 p.m. ET.

Sunday’s programming is in conjunction with Major League Baseball’s initiative to raise awareness and financial support for organizations leading the fight against ALS (Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis), otherwise known as “Lou Gehrig’s Disease.”  With the new charitable campaign “4♦ALS Awareness,” MLB is working with four leading organizations - The ALS Association, ALS TDI, Augie’s Quest (the Muscular Dystrophy Association’s ALS research initiative) and Project A.L.S. - whose primary goal is to find a cure for ALS.  The initiative will culminate on July 4, 2009, when every MLB Club playing at home will conduct a special on-field ceremony to honor Gehrig’s memory by recreating part of his “Luckiest Man” speech in an effort to raise awareness and financial support for 4ALS.

Highlights of the Ripken interview include:

ON GEHRIG SITTING OUT FOR THE FIRST TIME IN HIS CAREER:

“When my streak ended after all those games, I didn’t know what to do with myself. There were other reasons, obviously for Lou, but I certainly didn’t know what to do with myself, I didn’t know how to behave. I felt like I was on the outside looking in, and I’m wondering if he thinks he’s on the outside looking in right there.”

ON RIPKEN’S CONNECTION TO GEHRIG:

"I often wonder what a conversation would be like if you had a chance to sit down and talk to Lou and kind of compare notes – why you did it, how you did it, what were your challenges, because to me, it just happened. It wasn’t ever a part of what I wanted to do - it was a sense of responsibility, it was your obligation to yourself and to your team and to your manager, and I’d love to hear those things from Lou.”

ON BREAKING GEHRIG’S RECORD IN 1995:

"I guess at the time in ‘95, I was still pushing Lou away a little bit. In some ways, I knew the comparison was necessary because of what the streak was all about, I never felt it was right, because he was one of the game’s greatest players. I never thought of myself in that same category. We had a link because of our desire to play and our resiliency in our ability to do that. But I think I was pushing him away because I didn’t want it to become an obsession.”

ON GEHRIG’S CHARACTER:

"I think everybody on the surface knows what a great man he was. He was a man of character, an iron horse in the truest sense – strong, thick, and probably a little bit stubborn as a result, but I’d love to learn a little bit more about him but really in my own time.”

Select the image above to see MLB Network’s on-air promo for this episode of Studio 42 with Bob Costas and “Pride of the Yankees.

Source: MLB Network


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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Ken Rosenthal Joins MLB Network, Will Keep FOX Sports Duties Print
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Written by Maury Brown   
Monday, 29 June 2009 11:22
Ken Rosenthal

 

MLB Network

MLB Network today announced that Ken Rosenthal has joined its roster of on-air talent. Rosenthal will join the cast of MLB Tonight beginning Tuesday, June 30 at 6:00 p.m. ET. Rosenthal, who will continue his reporting for FoxSports.com and MLB on Fox, joins Sports Illustrated senior writers Tom Verducci and Jon Heyman as Baseball Insiders on the MLB Network team.

(See the 2007 Biz of Baseball interview with Rosenthal)

“Ken brings a wealth of on-air reporting experience and insight into the game and we’re excited to welcome him to MLB Network,” said Tony Petitti, president and CEO of MLB Network. “As we grow as a network, it’s important that we contnue to bring fans the most up-to-date information from the best resources in the business.”

Rosenthal has served as lead field reporter for MLB on Fox since 2005. Prior to joining Fox Sports, Rosenthal worked as the national baseball writer for The Sporting News and as a sportswriter at the Baltimore Sun, where he was named Maryland Sportswriter of the Year five times by the National Sportscasters and Sportswriters Association. He is a voting member of the Baseball Hall of Fame.

MLB Network launched on January 1, 2009 as the largest debut in cable television history and is currently available in approximately 53 million cable and satellite homes.

Source: MLB Network


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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MLB on Blackout Policy: “There’s still more work to be done” Print
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Written by Maury Brown   
Friday, 29 May 2009 08:17

BlackoutsThere was hope in August of last year, albeit thin, that Major League Baseball was finally ready to make good on their efforts to address the television territories in the league that was creating so much consumer outrage when coupled with MLB’s blackout policy.

“I see no reason why there ought to be so many clubs able to black out in those territories,” DuPuy said at the time. “That’s my intention. That’s my goal. I didn’t get any pushback. The whole thing is about making the game more popular and available.”

And, as recently as the Winter Meetings in December, DuPuy voiced that the restructuring of the television territories was near at hand.

“You can tell the fans in Las Vegas that the commissioner is committed to getting as many games cleared as possible,” DuPuy said to the Review-Journal

But, my hope has faded, and at this stage, if my hope is fading, then consumers, it’s time to pack it in. For more than two years, MLB’s owners, along with Commissioner Selig, have pushed the matter off, tabling the topic in owners meetings after owners meetings.

Optimism for a solution was not given a nudge in the right direction after speaking to Brian Eckhouse of the Las Vegas Sun yesterday and reading his column today (see Major League Baseball: As not seen on TV)

As quoted in Eckhouse’s column, the situation in Las Vegas is the most egregious – seeing the Dodgers, Angels, Giants, Athletics, Padres, and Diamondbacks all claiming that Las Vegas is within their “local” television territory, and therefore, MLB Extra Innings and MLB.TV consumer, subject to blackouts.

I mentioned to Eckhouse that this matter could get worse should MLB Advanced Media ever decide to move forward with streaming games to smartphones through applications such as At Bat, which is now available for Apple’s iPhone and iPod Touch products. MLBAM has been granted a patent for geolocation that could point to MLBAM looking to such possibilities in the future.

As I said, when reading Eckhouse’s column today, my hope for a solution did not move in the right direction. From his column:

Brown explained that team owners, nervous over the recession, “are scratching for every penny that they can get” — especially from advertisers. Owners fret that reducing the size of their television territories (even markets they don’t televise in) could hurt their draw to advertisers.

“It’s a very complicated issue,” said MLB spokesman Pat Courtney. “There’s still more work to be done” on a revised TV territory policy.

It was Pat Courtney’s comments that should be focused on here.

No one should deny that the issue of the television territories is complicated. But, so was the issue of a drug testing policy in baseball, and look where we are today.

But then, the drug testing policy wasn’t done freely by baseball, it was done so by pressure from Congress and the public. Maybe that’s the component that is missing from the equation. I imagine that if Congress and/or the FCC got involved, that the territories issue in baseball would be addressed in short order.

I just keep coming back to, “there’s still more work to be done.”

So much for wanting to make the game “more popular and available.”  

And baseball wonders why their television ratings continue to decline. When you make your product unavailable, don’t be surprised if the word from sports fans around the country continues to be, “Pass me the clicker, there’s the NBA and NHL playoffs to watch.”


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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UPDATE:: MLB Owners Meetings End, TV Territories Vote Tabled Print
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Written by Maury Brown   
Thursday, 21 May 2009 11:59

Blacked outMajor League Baseball's quarterly meetings have just ended, and with that, the vote to redefine MLB's television territories has, yet again, been tabled. The issue has now been tabled for the last two years.

The vote that was tabled centers around a proposal by MLB President and COO, Bob DuPuy. That proposal would have owners risk losing a geographic area of a territory they currently are claiming if they have not broadcast into that area for at least one season, thus lifting the blackout restriction for that geographic location.

Based upon the lateness of the season, odds seem exceptionally long that the issue will be addressed by the end of the season. Based upon the structure of the television territories, arcane blackouts occur at the regional and local level. National exclusivity agreements would not be addressed as part of the proposal. That means the country is blacked out on MLB Extra Innings due to FOX and ESPN games.


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.

Don't forget to register and log in on The Biz of Baseball site to get updates via your in-box, and see information only logged in members can see.

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MLB Network to Air Video Vignette Recreation of Mays' "The Catch' Print
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Written by Maury Brown   
Thursday, 14 May 2009 17:16

MLB Network tonight will unveil the finale in the series of video vignettes that “re-create” classic moments in baseball history, imagining how those moments may have looked with camera angles that did not exist at the time.  The last of these vignettes, a look at Willie Mays' famous catch during Game 1 of the 1954 World Series at the Polo Grounds, in which he caught a fly ball over his shoulder in centerfield off Cleveland's Vic Wertz, will air as part of MLB Tonight’s pre-game show before Thursday Night Baseball with the Orioles at the Royals, beginning at 6:00 p.m. ET.

There have been six of these “re-creations” in all, created in conjunction with B.I.G. Studios in Toronto .  Others included Jackie Robinson stealing home vs. Yogi Berra and the Yankees in the 1955 World Series and Bob Gibson striking out a World Series-record 17 batters in Game 1 of the 1968 World Series.  The clips have been unveiled one per week over the first six weeks of the season on Thursday nights prior to the start of Thursday Night Baseball.

The vignettes are designed to spark further discussion as to how each moment could have looked differently had modern media technology existed at that time. The new camera angles were created through the use of sophisticated software and digital compositing. They used prosthetics and body doubles as well and intentionally distressed the final recreated moments to integrate them seamlessly into the original footage.

MLB Network has said that all of the video vignettes will be available of MLBNetwork.com shortly.

Willie Mays - The Catch - Video

Select the image above to view Willie Mays in "The Catch"
APPLE'S QUICKTIME REQUIRED

Source: MLB Network

 
Vasgersian: "I certainly didn't mean to trivialize an injury." Print
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Written by Maury Brown   
Tuesday, 28 April 2009 22:03

Matt Vasgersian

Matt Vasgersian reaches out and publicly
apologizes for comments made on-the-air

UPDATE: Vasgersian apologizes on MLB Tonight. See embedded video below.

The first studio analyst hire that MLB Network made was that of Matt Vasgersian. As a play-by-play man, he had been with the San Diego Padres, and prior to that, the Milwaukee Brewers. He also was a member of NBC’s 2008 Olympic coverage.

But, Monday night, Vasgersian veered into territory that, depending on the individual, may have gotten them fired.

As MLB Tonight covered the Padres/Rockies highlights, the coverage turned to a freakish play in which Rockies outfielder Brad Hawpe was hit in the neck by Padres catcher Nick Hundley's throw to second base in the sixth inning. The hit to the neck resulted in a concussion, but at the time, it appeared as if the ball may have hit Hawpe in the back of the head and possibly done spinal damage.

After the footage was shown, Vasgersian asked for the footage to be shown again where Hawpe being carted off the field in a neck brace. Referencing a member of the Rockies EMT staff, Vasgersian quipped, “Isn’t that Donavan McNabb?”

It was a moment that was awkward, to say the least.

The footage was posted on YouTube (see the footage at the bottom of this article), and since then, public commentary has been decidedly negative toward Vasgersian. I ran a column being critical of him, as well (see MLB Network’s Matt Vasgersian Needs to Work on Being Professional).

It could have been at that stage that Vasgersian issued a statement through MLB Network, or reacted as many before him have done: lay low; say nothing. Wait for the heat to die down.

Vasgersian did neither. Instead, he went to issuing apologies personally, with The Biz of Baseball as one location where he did so, addressing my column, and all the critical remarks from readers.

His comment title reads, “Agree with all of the above” (see the original comment here)

Yup .. bad spot to try and fill a down moment with an attempt at humor. I certainly didn't mean to trivialize an injury but knew it came off that way as soon as the words came out of my mouth. Dumb. Some regrettably poor judgment occurring on live TV. I feel pretty bad about it and hope I didn't offend too many people hoping this as an apology conveys a bit of foot-in-mouth remorse.

In talking with those close to the situation at MLB Network, they say that Vasgersian is sincerely sorry for the comments. While some have called for some sort of punishment, I am not in that category.

I recall all too well interviewing FOX Sports analyst, Steve Lyons just a couple of days after his comments on the air with Lou Pinella. Those comment were offensive enough to FOX to warrant Lyons’ firing. Lyons said he was sorry, only so far as to say he didn't feel he said anything wrong. Vasgersian is taking all the responsibility, and issuing an apology directly. 

With that in mind, Vasgersian is being punished for the gaff already. He’s certain to be embarrassed. The broadcast community is very small, highly competitive, and one that judges their brethren. He also knows that while the MLB Network brass is behind him, it was no doubt an action that made them wince.

Vasgersian, I believe, is a top notch studio analyst. The line between being edgy and offensive is the width of a hair. Dance along it, and you can be a star. Dancing over it can put you in the unemployment line.

The fact that Vasgersian went so far as to take his apology directly to the fans shows he has a deep concern for what they think. That should be commended. Here’s to hoping that Vasgersian no longer finds controversy of this nature, and instead sees a long and fruitful career.

Original Commentary By Vasgersian

 

 

Apology Issued on Tuesday Night

 

 


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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MLB Network’s Matt Vasgersian Needs to Work on Being Professional Print
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Written by Maury Brown   
Tuesday, 28 April 2009 09:40

Matt Vasgersian of MLB Network has the voice and looks that could make him a top sports broadcaster. Too bad “professionalism” isn’t part of his repertoire at this stage, as shown in his inappropriate comments made on the air Monday evening.

This isn't the first gaff by Vasgersian (he let the F-Bomb fly in one taping), now it’s trying to joke about footage involving Colorado Rockies outfielder Brad Hawpe's neck injury – a neck injury that could have been far worse. Hawpe was taken to a hospital with a possible concussion after he was hit in the neck by San Diego catcher Nick Hundley's throw to second base in the sixth inning Monday night.

As the clip below shows, Vasgersian asks the production team to reshow the footage of Hawpe being carted off the field in a neck brace. Referencing a member of the Rockies EMT staff, Vasgersian quips, “Isn’t that Donavan McNabb?” Needless to say, Billy Ripken and Mitch Williams didn’t find it funny. Billy Ripken summed it up nicely.

“Dude, what’s wrong with you?”

Maybe Vasgersian needs to attend some NFL games where the gravity of neck injuries are more prevalent. There, the broadcast team voices its concern over the matter, not find it fodder for witty observations. 

Vasgersian needs to pick his spots, and this certainly wasn’t one of them.

 

 

 


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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MLB Extra Innings Carrier Pointing Customers to The Biz of Baseball for Help Print
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Written by Maury Brown   
Friday, 24 April 2009 00:10

Maury Brown<in my fastest radio voice> DISCLAIMER: The Business of Sports Network, and The Biz of Baseball are not affiliated with Major League Baseball, it’s 30 clubs, iNDemand, DirecTV, Bud Selig, or the ghost of Harry Caray. In no way, does Bizball LLC take responsibility for giving consumers information that they, apparently, are not getting from their MLB Extra Innings carriers. Let the buyer beware. We now return you to your regularly scheduled programming</fast radio voice ends>

It’s a late night here at the Business of Sports Network. We quit answering the phones long ago, but when we start seeing calls coming in regularly after business hours, it’s normally someone with a wrong number to Pizza Hut.

Over the past 24 hours, however, the messaging system has seen a steady stream of calls that go something like this:

“Hi. I turned on a game I was expecting to see on MLB Extra Innings, only to find a black screen and a message saying, 'Call your local cable company with questions.' I called them, and they said to contact you for further information. Can you tell me why I can’t see the game?”

Well, Virginia, there's a big, bad blackout monster out there, but your carrier should have told you that, not the Business of Sports Network.

BlackoutThese messages struck me on a couple of different levels. For one, it’s good to know that we have information that helps consumers understand MLB’s blackout policy. The bad news is, we have information that helps consumers understand MLB’s blackout policy.

In other words, the Business of Sports Network is apparently doing a better job of explaining why fans are being stuck in baseball purgatory than the billion dollar plus industry called Major League Baseball, and the multi-million dollar carriers are doing for their customers. That’s surely no way to run a sports league and the carriers they do business with.

Or, it’s more likely that it’s simply easier for these massive corporations to get your money out of your wallet, and then schlep off the dirty details elsewhere.

Going back to that disclaimer, here’s something else to add:

The Business of Sports Network can’t help get your money back. The best you can do is understand that the Dayton Peace Accords are probably easier for the average consumer to get their head wrapped around than the information that MLB and the carriers of MLB Extra Innings are offering on the blackout policy. Those details are buried in the fine print, and by placing the information there shows MLB is more interested in you forking over the subscription fee, and then dealing with the nasty blackout issues and non-refunds later, thank you very much.

We'll be updating this story as more details emerge. It would be amusing if not for the fact that consumers are stuck with a bill while gnashing teeth at blank screens for a game they thought they could watch.

For those that have yet to purchase MLB Extra Innings and are thinking of doing so, do not make the investment until you fully understand how MLB’s television blackout policy impacts you. Here is suggested reading:


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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Costas Set for MLB Broadcast Return at Yankee Stadium Opener Print
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Written by Maury Brown   
Thursday, 16 April 2009 12:46

Bob CostasWhen MLB Network broadcasts today’s regular season unveiling of new Yankee Stadium (1:05pm ET), the visuals will monumental. Hall of Famer Yogi Berra will throw out the first pitch, more than 40 former Yankees will be introduced during a pre-game ceremony, Kelly Clarkson will sing the National Anthem, and in sadder news, Paul Olden will replace longtime PA announcer Bob Sheppard (although a recording of Sheppard will announce Derek Jeter throughout the day).

But, beyond all this, it may be the man in front of the camera and behind the mic for MLB Network that this game may also be well remembered for.

Bob Costas makes his return to the baseball broadcast booth for the first time since he broadcast at the old Yankee Stadium for NBC on October 17, 2000, where the Yankees closed out the ALCS with a win in Game Six over the Seattle Mariners. Costas will be joined by Jim Kaat, and Harold Reynolds calling the action.

Earlier this week, Costas talked of returning to baseball broadcasting and to those that will be in the booth with him today. Asked if he was going into the game cold, Costas offered up that a practice production run was done during an MLB exhibition game this year.

"We did a Saturday game at Citi Field, with the Mets and the Red Sox,” Costas said. “We did six innings of the game as a rehearsal game and I would imagine there's some aspect of it that's like riding a bike and there's a little bit of rust to knock off, but I don't anticipate any major problems. Is it possible that by the third or fourth game I'll be in a slightly better rhythm than the first game? Yeah I guess that's possible. We'll see."

Asked about his broadcast team, he made it clear that Kaat and Reynolds were key to what he sees as the start of a successful run with MLB Network.

"I wanted to make sure Jim Kaat was a part of the group because he pitched in the true original Yankee Stadium,” Costas said. “His career began in 1959 so he pitched against Ted Williams, he faced Mickey Mantle at the old Yankee Stadium, and while the broadcast won't be exclusively about new stadium, old stadium, it certainly has to be part of it. I thought that Jim's perspective would be important and as [MLB Network CEO Tony Petitti] said, Harold has been such a prominent part of the network that it is appropriate that he be involved on this first broadcast. So I think it's going to be a combination of introducing people outside of New York to the new Yankee Stadium, but also talk about the Yankees prospects and the Indians prospects for the season ahead and the pitching pairing that the rotations hold is CC Sabathia against Cliff Lee so you can't ask for much more than that. So as long as the weather holds up, I think were in good shape."

Asked what were some of the key story lines that he saw for the 2009 season, Costas mentioned the Rays, Yankees, and Cubs, and then added something off-the-field.

“It will be interesting to see what teams that are out of contention early on do in terms of shedding payroll, given the state of the economy.”


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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MLB Network Adds Weekly Games on Saturdays Print
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Written by Maury Brown   
Friday, 10 April 2009 00:47
MLB NetworkMLB Network announced on Thursday the addition of a package of weekly live national game broadcasts on Saturday evenings, as well as the schedule of games for April and May. Combined with its Thursday Night Baseball package that begins tonight, MLB Network will now carry 52 live regular season games in its first year. The first Saturday night game will air this week, on April 11 at 8:00 p.m. ET with the Los Angeles Dodgers at the Arizona Diamondbacks. With the addition of the Saturday night games, MLB Network will now feature 24 of the 30 MLB clubs within the first seven weeks of the season.

In addition to the Diamondbacks, the Saturday games will also mark the first regular season national appearances on MLB Network by the Cincinnati Reds, Colorado Rockies, Florida Marlins, Oakland Athletics, Pittsburgh Pirates, San Diego Padres and Seattle Mariners. MLB Network will announce future Saturday night games coinciding with its selection windows. The Saturday night games will primarily be simulcasts of local broadcasts, including local announcers. On Saturdays, MLB Tonight will provide in-game updates on developments throughout MLB as well as news, analysis and highlights following the game telecast.

Games will be blacked out in each team's home television territory. Viewers in areas subject to blackouts will be provided with an alternate game telecast or other programming.

"Adding these Saturday night games will allow us to further our commitment to showcase all 30 Major League clubs at the national level," said Tony Petitti, President and Chief Executive Officer of MLB Network. "Having two national games each week will also help us augment our already robust MLB Tonight studio programming." MLB Network's complete broadcast schedule for April and May, including Thursday Night Baseball as well as the new Saturday night games, appears below.

Select Read More to see the additional Saturday games added to MLB Network's national broadcast game line up (includes the Thursday games, as well). Or, see the updated National Broadcast Calendar

Read more...
 
Buyer Beware: 7 Things to Do Before Purchasing MLB Extra Innings/MLB.TV Print
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Written by Maury Brown   
Tuesday, 07 April 2009 23:19

MLB Blackout Map

Select the image above to see Major
League Baseball's television blackout
territories

(CLICK TO SEE IN LARGER VIEW)

 Each year, I report extensively on MLB television territories, national broadcast and exclusivity deals, outlining for the uninitiated the convoluted blackout policy that Major League Baseball has. This year is no exception, as the league will not see any changes with the season now under way. That might change over the course of the year, but I would not bank on it given how the state of the economy currently is.

Instead of detailing the blackout policy, I’m hoping to dull the blow for any potential subscribers to MLB Extra Innings or MLB.TV before they plunk down what little disposable income they have left on either of the packages, only to find out the team they hope to see isn’t being shown in their area due to the blackout policy. As an example, here’s just one of many emails I have received over the last few days that might have been avoided. I’ll say this is from “Susan”:

I purchased the Extra-Inning package from Brighthouse, I also paid for for one for my daughter to have at her house... and today is Tuesday, April 7th... the Atlanta Braves are not on tonight.  How many Braves games am I going to miss?   I don't want to be paying for something that isn't going to be what I expected.

Here are 7 things you should do before subscribing.

1) Select the map image above and look for where you live. Use the legend to see what clubs deem your area to be “local”. If it seems odd that sections of Montana are declared as the “local” territory of the Mariners, it is.

2) Understand that MLB’s ad that says “Catch All the Action” is a half-truth. Everyone gets hit by blackouts with MLB Extra Innings, just some less than others. Check your local regional sports network (Fox Sports Net is a good example) as often times (but not always) the team you are looking to watch is on their channel

3) Check to see what teams are going to be blacked out by zip code. MLB.TV has a fine print section at the bottom of the page that everyone should read before making any “out of market” package purchase. Here is the zip code locator on MLB.TV

4) If you are part of the iNDemand consortium of cable providers (Time Warner, Cox, Comcast), go to iNDemand’s MLB Extra Innings page and use their zip code locator to see what games are available for a given day. If the team you were hoping to catch is playing that day, but doesn’t show up on iNDemand’s schedule for your area, you’ve been hit with a blackout.

5) Don’t expect some smaller carriers to have a zip code locator where you can find out whether you are going to be hit with the Blackout Blues. After “Susan’s” email, I tried to see if Brighthouse had a zip code locator. Nada.

Here’s a press release that devotes two sentences to the blackout policy for Brighthouse, adding, “Blackout restrictions apply to certain games and media markets, such as with the Tampa Bay Devil Rays and the Florida Marlins.” Note that the Braves were not mentioned; something “Susan” would probably have liked to have known. Before making a purchase, call these carriers and get an answer on the club in question you have interest in. Make sure and get the CSR’s name and ask them if refunds are available if the information they are providing is incorrect.

6) If you are a DirecTV subscriber, make sure and read all of this page before purchasing. Pay close attention to the fine print in gray toward the bottom, especially this:

Sports subscriptions cannot be cancelled (sic), transferred, refunded or credited (in part or in whole) after the season starts.

7) If worst comes to worst and you find that before you purchase MLB Extra Innings or MLB.TV that you are going to be stuck in a blackout, there are a couple of options to allow you to catch games, just not visually. You can catch Gameday Audio via MLB.com’s At Bat 2009, or on your computer (remember, these are separate purchases). If you are a Sirius/XM Radio subscriber, you can catch all games there, as well. In both of these instances you get both home and away radio feeds. I have "At Bat 2009" for iPhone and at $9.99 for the year, it is one heck of a bargain.

MLB Extra Innings is a great thing… sort of. In a case of full discloser, although I have been highly critical of the blackout policy in Major League Baseball, I have been a repeat subscriber of MLB Extra Innings through DirecTV. Of course, I am only hit with blackouts for the Mariners, and for the most part, can catch them through FSNW if I desire. I seriously doubt that I would purchase the package if I lived in Las Vegas where the Padres, Giants, A’s, Dodgers, Angels, and Diamondbacks are blacked out, or in Oklahoma or Arkansas where the Royals, Cardinals, Rangers, and Astros are subject to the policy.

If MLB isn’t going to be addressing the blackout policy when the season starts (and maybe all the way through the 2009 season), hopefully these suggestions can at least prevent fans from forking over their hard-earned money instead of seeing blank screen where they thought they’d be seeing their favorite team play that day.

Business of Sports Network Feature article:

Isle Be Damned: A Tale of Two Cities (A ‘Dickens’ of a story)


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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Site Update: MLB Television Blackout Territories Print
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Written by Maury Brown   
Monday, 06 April 2009 13:28

Major League Baseball's television blackout territories are very different from the NFL's which works off of a diameter around the host city. Instead, the television territories began with over-the-air reach, and have escalated in size based upon regional sports networks, as witnessed most visibly by the territory designated for the Seattle Mariners.

As this map shows, 1-6 teams can occupy a given section of the country, creating multiple blackouts for those subscribing to MLB Extra Innings, the out-of-market broadcast package available on DirecTV and the cable consortium of iNDemand, which includes the likes of Time Warner Cable, Cox Communications, and Comcast. The package is not available at this time on EchoStar's DISH Network.

These territories are separate from broadcast blackouts that are due to national exclusivity agreements with ESPN, FOX, and TBS and occur on weekend games. In those instances, MLB Extra Innings games are completely blacked out until specific times (see 2009 Season Begins With MLB Blackout Policy Still a Bone of Contention for further details)

Given the significant influence of these territories, The Biz of Baseball is dedicating a stand-alone page that can be accessed from our navigation tier at all times, going forward. It can be accessed at any time from the "MLB TV Territories" link under "Media News" going forward.

MLB Blackout Map

Select the image above to see Major
League Baseball's television blackout
territories

(CLICK TO SEE IN LARGER VIEW)


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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MLB Network to "Re-Create" 6 Classic Baseball Moments Print
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Written by Maury Brown   
Friday, 03 April 2009 11:15

Gibson Movie

Click to view in QuickTime

MLB Network will unveil the first in a series of video vignettes next Thursday that “re-create” classic moments in baseball history, imagining how those moments may have looked with camera angles that did not exist at the time.  The first of these vignettes, a look at Bob Gibson during Game 1 of the 1968 World Series, in which he struck out a World Series-record 17 Tigers, will air as part of MLB Tonight’s pre-game show before the debut of Thursday Night Baseball with the Brewers at the Giants, beginning at 6:00 p.m. ET.

(See a portion of the Gibson vignette by selecting the image above - Apple's Quicktime required)

There are six of these “re-creations” in all, created in conjunction with B.I.G. Studios in Toronto .  Others include Jackie Robinson stealing home vs. Yogi Berra and the Yankees in the 1955 World Series and Willie Mays’ over-the-shoulder catch in the 1954 World Series.  They will be unveiled one per week each of the next six weeks on Thursday nights prior to the start of Thursday Night Baseball.

The vignettes are designed to spark further discussion as to how each moment could have looked differently had modern media technology existed at that time. The new camera angles were created through the use of sophisticated software and digital compositing. They used prosthetics and body doubles as well and intentionally distressed the final recreated moments to integrate them seamlessly into the original footage.

Source: MLB Network


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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MLB Network to Air "Fantasy Draft Preview Show" Print
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Written by Maury Brown   
Friday, 27 March 2009 10:34

MLB NetworkMLB Network will broadcast a special MLB.com Fantasy Draft Preview Show, in conjunction with MLB.com, on Sunday, March 29 at 8:30 p.m. ET.  Hosted by MLB Network’s Greg Amsinger and Harold Reynolds along with MLB.com’s Cory Schwartz and Mike Siano, the co-hosts of Fantasy 411 on MLB.com, the 90-minute show will provide detailed analysis and insight specifically geared towards fantasy baseball enthusiasts as fantasy draft days loom before Opening Day.

Highlights of the MLB.com Fantasy Draft Preview Show will include:

  • Position-by-position analysis with full player rankings
  • Discussion of strategy for draft day and in-season transactions
  •  “Breakout, bargain and bust” picks for the 2009 season
  • Top picks for prospects expected to be called up during the 2009 season

Schwartz and Siano serve as co-hosts of Fantasy 411, MLB.com’s longest-running program that provides key insights to help further fans’ enjoyment and knowledge in their respective fantasy leagues.  Schwartz, the Director of Stats for MLB.com and a regular contributor to MLB.com's fantasy baseball section, has been competing in fantasy baseball since 1989, including expert competitions such as the National Fantasy Baseball Championship (NFBC) and Tout Wars. Siano, the Director of Multimedia Production for MLB.com, has been competing in fantasy baseball for more than 10 years, including the highly-competitive Tout Wars league. The MLB.com Fantasy 411 blog can be found at http://fantasy411.mlblogs.com

Source: MLB Network


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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2009 Season Begins With MLB Blackout Policy Still a Bone of Contention Print
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Written by Maury Brown   
Thursday, 26 March 2009 14:02

Blackout Blues“We’re still working on it.”

That was is the word from MLB on its television blackout policy that affects not only MLB Extra Innings, but national broadcasts on ESPN, TBS, and now MLB Network’s Thursday Night Baseball. While MLB President and COO Bob DuPuy looked to have the owners address the policy in the off-season, it seems the economy pushed the issue out... again.

For the uninitiated, here’s how the blackout policy functions across the various platforms.

MLB Extra Innings and MLB.TV, the online package for watching out of market games:

  • Local Live Blackout: ALL LIVE MLB.TV games will be blacked out in each applicable Club's home television territory (except for certain home television territories for which MLB.com may offer in-market subscription services) or in Japan.
  • National Live Blackout (Regular Season): Due to Major League Baseball national exclusivities, each Saturday until 7:00 PM EST (beginning May 17, 2008 and continuing for remaining Saturdays during the regular season) and each Sunday night (for games that begin after 5:00 PM EST), all scheduled webcasts of games played within such time period will be blacked out.
  • National Live Blackout (Post Season): Due to Major League Baseball national exclusivities, during the MLB postseason, if you live within the following nations or territories, webcasts of all postseason games will be blacked out: United States, Canada, Guam, US Virgin Islands, South Korea and Japan.
  • NOTE: Due to broadcast restrictions, new MLB.TV and Condensed Game archives are limited to a playing time of five minutes in duration until 6 am ET on the day following that on which the applicable game commenced play.

As noted above, the country is blacked out due to agreements with FOX, ESPN and TBS. Here’s how that breaks down:

Every Saturday, from 1:10 PM ET or before 7:05 PM ET, all games are blacked out due to an exclusivity agreement with FOX, which typically broadcasts one game starting at 3:55 Eastern. That means in a six-hour window in which games are being played, you can watch two games at most--the FOX game and your local team if it's playing on TV in that window and isn't the game being carried on FOX. On Sundays, ESPN holds the rights to night games, so any games that start after 5 p.m. ET are blacked out. In practice, this only affects a handful of games, as almost all Sunday games are played in the daytime. TBS airs 26 Sunday afternoon games this year which are blacked out in local markets--TBS can air an alternate game in those areas, and as many as 13 of any single team. So those of you in Boston and New York may barely be aware of TBS' arrangement by the end of the season.

Adding a new wrinkle to the Blackout Blues this year is MLB Network’s Thursday Night Baseball. For MLB Network, games will be blacked out in each team’s home television territory. Viewers in areas subject to blackouts will be provided with an alternate game telecast or other programming.

As for those blackout areas, it is a tangled world out there. Select Read More to see an image for each of the “local” broadcast areas for each of the 30 clubs.

Read more...
 
MLB Network Releases Complete Thursday Night Baseball Schedule for April and May Print
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Written by Maury Brown   
Wednesday, 25 March 2009 15:30

MLB NetworkMLB Network today announced its Thursday Night Baseball schedule for April and May, featuring 16 different MLB clubs in its first eight live regular season games. MLB Network’s first-ever regular season game broadcast will occur on April 9 with the Milwaukee Brewers at the San Francisco Giants. The following week, MLB Network will air two games including the debut of the new Yankee Stadium on April 16, which will also mark Bob Costas’ play-by-play debut for MLB Network. Costas last appeared in a baseball broadcast booth at the old Yankee Stadium for NBC on October 17, 2000, where the Yankees closed out the ALCS with a win in Game Six over the Seattle Mariners.

Jim Kaat will make his MLB Network debut on April 16, joining Costas and Harold Reynolds in the booth for the Yankees home opener. In addition to that game, Costas will also call the May 7 game between the Philadelphia Phillies and New York Mets at CitiField. Broadcast teams for the additional Thursday Night Baseball games on MLB Network in April and May will include play by play by Matt Vasgersian and Victor Rojas, with analysis by Al Leiter, Joe Magrane, and Dan Plesac.

Other highlights of the April and May game schedule include matchups of division rivals such as the Boston Red Sox at the Tampa Bay Rays (April 30), the Philadelphia Phillies at the New York Mets (May 7) and the Chicago Cubs at the St. Louis Cardinals (May 21). The Toronto Blue Jays, Minnesota Twins, Los Angeles Dodgers, Houston Astros, Baltimore Orioles and Kansas City Royals will also be featured. MLB Network will announce future Thursday Night Baseball games coinciding with its selection windows. Games will be blacked out in each team’s home television territory. Viewers in areas subject to blackouts will be provided with an alternate game telecast or other programming.

“It’s important for MLB Network right from the start to establish a national footprint with live games, and we’ve done that with this Thursday night package to complement our ambitious nightly studio show, MLB Tonight,” said Tony Petitti, President and Chief Executive Officer of MLB Network (read The Biz of Baseball interview with Tony Petitti). “We’re very excited about the mix of games we’ll show in the first two months, and think fans will continue to appreciate the versatility of our on-air talent as they transition seamlessly between the studio and the broadcast booth.”

Select Read More to see the complete MLBN Thursday Night Baseball schedule for April and May

Read more...
 
Jim Kaat, Billy Ripken Join MLB Network Print
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Written by Maury Brown   
Friday, 20 March 2009 19:23

MLB NetworkMLB Network today announced that former Major League pitcher and veteran broadcaster Jim Kaat and former Major League second baseman and radio host Billy Ripken have joined its roster of on-air talent.  Ripken will join the cast of MLB Tonight, the live, nightly studio show is the signature program of the network, joining Sean Casey, Barry Larkin, Al Leiter, Joe Magrane, Dan Plesac, Harold Reynolds and Mitch Williams as a studio analyst. Kaat will provide color commentary for a select number of live game broadcasts as part of MLB Network’s Thursday Night Baseball in addition to occasional studio work.

“We’re pleased to welcome Jim Kaat back to the broadcast booth, and equally excited to have Billy Ripken join our talented studio team,” said Tony Petitti, President and Chief Executive Officer of MLB Network. “With Opening Day around the corner, our on-air roster is game ready and we can’t wait for the regular season to get started.”

(See The Biz of Baseball interview with Tony Petitti)

Kaat won 283 games in a 25-year career with the Washington Senators/Minnesota Twins (1959-73), Chicago White Sox (1973-75), Philadelphia Phillies (1976-79), New York Yankees (1979-80) and St. Louis Cardinals (1980-83). A three-time All-Star, Kaat won a record 16 consecutive Gold Glove awards, and also captured a World Series ring with the Cardinals in 1982. Kaat’s broadcasting career stretches over 20 years and includes national baseball work with CBS, ABC and TBS as well as 14 years with the Yankees on the YES Network as well as WPIX and MSG Network (1986 and 1994-2006). Kaat also worked in the Twins broadcast booth from 1988-2003. He has won a total of 7 Emmy Awards for his work as a baseball broadcaster.

In a 12-year career, Ripken played for the Baltimore Orioles (1987-92, 1996), Texas Rangers (1993-94, 1997), Cleveland Indians (1995) and Detroit Tigers (1998). Ripken’s debut with the Orioles in 1987 – playing alongside his brother Cal and with his father Cal Sr. managing – made Major League history as the only time a father simultaneously managed two of his sons. In 1990, Ripken led the Orioles with a .291 batting average and he and Cal tied for the team lead with 28 doubles. In 1992, his .993 fielding percentage was tops among second basemen. More recently he served as co-host with Cal on XM Satellite Radio’s “Ripken Baseball” show on MLB Home Plate. Ripken was inducted into the Maryland Sports Hall of Fame in 2002. Ripken is currently serving as first base coach for Team USA in the 2009 World Baseball Classic.

Source: MLB Network


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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MLB Extra Innings, MLB Network HD Finally Arrives for Verizon FiOS Print
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Written by Maury Brown   
Tuesday, 10 March 2009 10:04

MLB Extra InningsLast November, MLB Network announced that Verizon FiOS would be carrying MLBN, plus MLB Extra Innings. While MLB Network in standard-def has been available since Jan. 1 on FiOS, until now, customers have been grappling with when MLB Network in HD and MLB Extra Innings might become a reality.

According to Multichannel News, FiOS customers can now access MLB Network in HD, and will have access to MLB Extra Innings. According to Multichannel:

MLB Network HD is available on channel 586 to FiOS TV Extreme HD package subscribers that have an HD set-top box. The standard-def feed of MLB Network has been available on channel 86 since Jan. 1 for customers of both the Extreme HD and Essentials packages.

MLB Extra Innings is a premium service option available for $199 for the season; Verizon is offering an early bird rate of $169 for subs who sign up prior to April 12. The package features up to 80 live out-of-market MLB games each week, with up to 10 of those in high-definition.

A tip of the hat to Ken Fang of the excellent Fang’s Bites


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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Cost of MLB Extra Innings on DirecTV Increases to $191, Up 13% Print
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Written by Maury Brown   
Saturday, 07 March 2009 19:51

MLB Extra InningsFor those that wish to enjoy MLB Extra Innings on DirecTV, it’s going to cost you more if you have standard-def, prior subscriber, or not.

A glance at DirecTV’s Extra Innings page with the newly released information shows that new or prior subscribers are offered four payments of $47.75, or $191. The offer is good until April 12. No information is available as to whether prices will increase after that date.

Last year, costs were $169 for renewals and $179 for Early Bird new subscribers.

The difference seems to be that HD offerings are rolled into the package, whether you wish to have the channels, or not. Last year, consumers had to purchase the Super Fan package for an extra $50 to gain access to HD offerings of MLB EI. That translates to a savings of $28 for HD subs.

DirecTV states that they will broadcast up to 80 games a week — up to 40 in HD, providing they have the proper dish, receiver and “HD Access” package, which is an extra $10 a month.

The number of games available depends on your location. To date, DirecTV is pointing consumers to their blackout policy page from last year, a sign that MLB will enter the 2009 season without addressing the blackout policy as MLB president and COO Bob DuPuy had been discussing.

The increase for prior subscribers with standard-def from 2008 to this season will be an increase of 13 percent.


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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Weds.: MLB Network to Broadcast Griffey's First Game Back with Mariners Print
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Written by Maury Brown   
Tuesday, 03 March 2009 18:56

GriffeyMLB Network announced today that it will offer live national coverage of Ken Griffey Jr.’s first exhibition game since returning to the Mariners as Seattle takes on Team Australia in a World Baseball Classic exhibition game on Wednesday, March 4 at 9:00 p.m. ET from Peoria , AZ. The World Baseball Classic begins March 5, with 16 games shown on MLB Network along with a nightly studio show titled “World Baseball Classic Tonight.” Wednesday’s game will be a live simulcast from Fox Sports Northwest, including local announcers

(Note by The Biz of Baseball: Assumed broadcasters for FSNNW to be Dave Niehaus and Rick Rizz)


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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