MLB Network, Part 1




It is said that the MLB Network actually might have begun about 4 years ago somewhere in the current World Series hamlet of Philadelphia.  Now you never know, but it could have been conceived at that religious corner of Geno’s and Pat’s over a modest cheese steak, or a simple order of fries. How the meeting came to be is not as important as the first few months of the new network.

In August 2004, the head cheeses of all 30 MLB clubs ownership approved funding to start the all-baseball media channel that has evolved and transformed in the past months from a wide idea and concept to a cleaner product here mire days before debut on January 1, 2009. The owners’ were originally willing to accept carriage on cable and satellite’s sports tiers, and would feature a programming lineup without the the help of live games during the debut of the network.



MLB ownership did not think the network could see a profit, or even generate any income until maybe the 6th season on the air. The idea that the MLB Network would not use live games came under quick scrutiny and was open by a broadside of critiques  from all sides of the fence. Media outlets wonder if the venture was necessary given the abundance of televised games and already established contracts within the 30 team circles.


Not lost on the medias’ critique wagon was the fact that this same concept had been brought up for the last 20 years, and why would 2009 be any different for baseball or televised sports in the United States.  So why was it not that the traction developed for baseball to push forward with this venture and seek its own new revenue stream. The Network vote was not even the big news emerging out of those owners meetings in Philly, with Commissioner Bud Selig’s extension drawing most of the events attention.



Let’s fast forward to the  anticipated New Years  Day introduction of the new network and you will find out that most of the “planned programming and events” posted in memos’ or paperwork back in 2004 has gone the way of the trash heap. Rather than launching with roughly 15 million subscribers on the various sports tiers in both outlets current programming options,  the MLB Network will now begin their programming on January 1st with over 50 million possible on digital or expanded basic programming. Making it a event worthy of even the MTV initial broadcast, and might blossom into the biggest successful network launch in cable TV history.


Early programming will include portions of MLB’s current project, the World Baseball Classic set to resume in Spring 2009, and a nonexclusive Saturday night, regular season game package that will rivals ESPN College Football Pay-Per-View program. Complimenting this will be a high energy mixing of highlights,studio programming, and more depth into development leagues and international baseball news.



Also currently evolving is the networks first strike at the “ESPN Baseball Tonight”  current dominance in the industries  inside sources and programming perks to viewers. Does this mean that MLB might censor some material for their network only and make it available to the public after airing on the new channel?



The channel will develop all these interesting moves from their new digs in Manhattan’s Harlem neighborhood, with MLB partnering with Vornado Realty Trust to build a dramatic new structure at 125th street and Park Avenue. The building will be high end from the get-go, and will be the first top-tier office complex to be developed in the neighborhood in decades. As we grow nearer to the debut date, the network will being constantly changing and adapting to the current baseball climate and on going formation of the network should be the talk of baseball until pitchers’ and catchers’ report in Feb. 2009.


With the current MLB labor peace well at hand, the onset of possible new revenues and attendance records all but certain this season, and the Mitchell Report finally fading into the night, the MLB Network should be the thing to watch in 2009.  MLB officials are quietly reveling at their  20-year brainchild finally coming to the forefront and seeing the light of day. Profitability is now expected by the end of 2009, according to industry sources.



And by 2015, revenues from cable subscriber fees and advertising is projected to soar beyond $ 210 million dollars, with a net value easily exceeding $ 1 billion dollars. Thanks to the hard up sale from cable, the massive distribution for a vertically oriented outlet like MLB Network, will become the league’s key marketing and promotional outlet.  With initial start-up costs put at the md-eight figures, the  channels quick return on investment and high asset value will mark some of the easiest money MLB owners have ever made in baseball.


Media Industry spokesman say that Selig saw the potential for MLB Network at last season’s  battles with the cable industry around the league’s out-of-market package, Extra Innings. But there were a lot of heated exchanges and questions raised about the upstart MLB Network as it fought cable television operators over carriage of the channel, plus keeping the out-of-market Extra Innings package intact.




In late 2006, it looked like a satellite provider, Direc TV might get the winning nod from baseball. It would have given the satellite provider exclusive access to Extra Innings, and an ownership stake in the new network. In exchange, Direc TV planned to launch the network to about 15 million viewers.  MLB benefited from Direc TV’s strategy of trying to corner the out-of-market sports marketplace. Direc TV already had exclusive rights to the NFL’s Sunday Ticket and NASCAR’s Hot Pass. But once cable operators found out that Direc TV was to get exclusive access to Extra Innings as well, they revolted big time.


I am going to have to break our little blog up into two parts because it is about 1 am, and I have to get off here right now because some friends want me to hit the Emergency Room after a friendly game of Beach Football during a Christmas Party  last night at a friend’s home on Clearwater Beach. I have to admit, me head is buzzing, and not from the alcohol anymore. So it might be a great idea to go get it check out before the holidays. Not that my hard head would damage anything, but I do like to remember things at times.


I will try and write part two while I am waiting to be seen ( you know it takes at least an hour ). I will then try and post it in the morning after I wake up. Hopefully, the hospital will have WiFi and I can get this done tonight before I forget all my facts. Anyways, I did not think I needed to go to the hospital since I made that bone crushing tackle in the open field and then got his knee into my right ear.  But I guess the 48-year old corner can no longer put a helmet on it and not get injured. And by the way, my ear does look like a floret of cauliflower in the mirror……cool.

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