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MLB Network is a television specialty channel dedicated to professional baseball. It is primarily owned by Major League Baseball. Comcast, DirecTV, Time Warner and Cox Communications have minority ownership of the new network, with MLB retaining a controlling two-thirds share. The channel's headquarters and studios are located in the Secaucus, New Jerseymarker facility which housed MSNBC's former studios until their 2007 move to 30 Rockefeller Plazamarker at NBC Universal Headquarters. Profitability is expected by the end of 2009, according to industry sources. And by 2015, revenue from cable subscriber fees and advertising is projected to soar beyond $210 million, with a net value easily exceeding $1 billion.

The network soft-launched on December 16, 2008 with a rolling automated loop of archival programming and promotions for the network for cable systems that carried the network's transmissions leading up to the January 1 launch.

Major League Baseball attempted a television venture in 1993 with The Baseball Network, where they would produce baseball programming, which would be distributed by ABC and NBC. Following the 1994 Major League Baseball strike, the partnership between ABC, NBC and MLB suffered financial difficulties, and the venture folded in 1995.

Despite pioneering league-owned programming with The Baseball Network, Major League Baseball became the fourth major North American professional sports league to launch its own network. NBA TV dates back to 1999, the NHL Network to 2001 (though not in the United States until 2007), and the NFL Network to 2003. However, MLBN is carried in the most households of these four networks, largely because of the financial participation of the cable systems.

Tony Petitti, former executive producer of CBS Sports, was named the network's first president.

Carriage

The network has signed contracts with 36 cable and satellite carriers. In a deal that may be copied by other sports league owned channels, MLB tied carriage of the MLB Network to the ability to carry the popular out of market MLB Extra Innings package. In return, cable and satellite providers were offered a minority share of the new network. Two major television providers that are not currently carrying the channel are AT&T U-Verse and Dish Network, leaving DirecTV with satellite exclusivity. Dish Network has been in an ongoing carriage dispute about MLB Extra Innings since the end of the 2006 season.

Canadian carriage

As of December 2008, no announcements have been made about MLB Network availability outside the U.S., particularly in Canadamarker, home of the Toronto Blue Jays. Network officials have been in contact with Blue Jays owner (and Canada's largest cable company) Rogers Communications about making MLB Network available in Canada, but have emphasized that a deal is not imminent.

In August 2008, Rogers secured CRTC approval for a Canadian digital channel tentatively called "Baseball TV", which has not yet launched. This license could be used to launch a localized version of MLB Network with domestic advertising and additional Canadian content, similar to the current Raptors NBA TV. This appears to be Rogers' preferred option. An alternative would be for MLB and a sponsoring cable or satellite company (such as Rogers) to seek separate CRTC approval to import the U.S. channel directly, as has been done with NFL Network.

MLB Network HD

MLB Network HD is a 720p high definition simulcast of MLB Network, which launched simultaneously to the regular channel. After much discussion, MLB Network decided to use the 720p format instead of 1080-line-interlace because it believes 720p shows the motion of baseball more accurately and will degrade less when recompressed by cable operators to save bandwidth. As Mark Haden (VP of enginering and IT of MLB Network) says: “That's our best shot of maintaining quality to viewers.” All studio programs and original shows are shot in HD, as well as all self produced games such as those of the 2009 World Baseball Classic and Thursday Night Baseball, as well as simulcasted locally produced games on Saturday Night Baseball. The network is also currently remastering 30 World Series Films in high definition. Also during MLB Tonight the channel shows exclusive live HD look-ins to games in progress via its local channel. Programs not available in HD originally have unique stylized pillarboxes: brick walls reminiscent of an older baseball stadium, with the MLB Network logo in the middle. Beginning on March 27, 2009, pillarboxes with a more generic design were used with some programming: solid blue bars with the logo in the middle. The brick wall design pillarboxes continue to be used at times as well.

The 720p format is also used by affiliates of regional sports network Fox Sports Net HD, which holds the rights to local game coverage of several teams. MLB national broadcast partners Fox HD and ESPN HD are also in 720p.

MLB Network HD is available nationally on DirecTV, and regionally on Verizon FiOS, Cablevision, Comcast, Cox Communications, Time Warner Cable, and Bright House Networks.

On-air talent

Hosts



Analysts

  • Sean Casey: (2009–present) Hot Stove and MLB Tonight
  • Tony Clark: (2009–present) MLB Tonight
  • John Hart: (2009–present) 30 Clubs in 30 Days, 30 Teams, 30 Report Cards, Hot Stove and MLB Tonight
  • Clint Hurdle: (2009–present) MLB Tonight
  • Jim Kaat: (2009–present) Thursday Night Baseball
  • Barry Larkin: (2009–present) Hot Stove and MLB Tonight
  • Al Leiter: (2009–present) Hot Stove, MLB Tonight and Thursday Night Baseball
  • Joe Magrane: (2009–present) Hot Stove, MLB Tonight and Thursday Night Baseball
  • Dan Plesac: (2009–present) Hot Stove, MLB Tonight and Thursday Night Baseball
  • Harold Reynolds: (2009–present) Hot Stove, MLB Tonight and Thursday Night Baseball
  • Billy Ripken: (2009–present) MLB Tonight
  • Dave Valle: (2009–present) MLB Tonight
  • Mitch Williams: (2009–present) The Pen, Thursday Night Baseball, Hot Stove and MLB Tonight


Reporters

  • Trenni Kusnierek: (2009–present) Hot Stove and MLB Tonight
  • Hazel Mae: (2009–present) Diamond Demo, All Time Games, Hot Stove and MLB Tonight
  • Matt Yallof: (2009–present) Quick Pitch , MLB Tonight (Saturday nights)
  • Jeanne Zelasko (2009-present) freelance as a west coast correspondent for MLB Tonight


Insiders



Programming

MLB Network has a large amount of original programs, including:

Live game coverage

Regular Season



  • Saturday Night Baseball: MLB Network also simulcasts games on Saturday nights from one team's local TV rights holder. Typically the home team's telecast is utilized. These games are also subject to local blackouts. Saturday Night Baseball will also use the alternate feed for the same purpose.


International

International live game coverage self-produced by MLB Network includes the World Baseball Classic and the Caribbean Series.

Spring Training

The channel also airs live Spring training games, simulcasted from one of the team's local TV rights holder's feed. These games are also subject to local blackouts.

Other games

The channel also carries live development league games, and occasionally live college baseball and minor league games. In August 2009, they will air youth baseball championships, including the RBI World Series and the Cal Ripken World Series. It also airs some games of the Arizona Fall League including the championship.

Highlight shows

  • MLB Tonight: The signature show of MLB Network, which debuted at the start of 2009 Spring Training in a 60-minute format; since the regular season began on April 5, 2009, it has aired Monday through Saturday from 6 pm Eastern until the final MLB game of the night is over. The show has updates, highlights, news, and analysis. The original plan was also to feature exclusive live look-ins using their own permanent HD cameras with shots not available on any of the channels covering the game; however, MLBN has decided to use "ballpark cam" only before and after games. Live cut-ins simulcast from the station covering the game. It has three versions daily: Batting Practice, beginning at 6:00 PM EST, 1st to 3rd beginning at 8:00 PM EST, and Round Tripper final beginning at 10:00 PM EST.
  • Hot Stove: During the offseason, Hot Stove is the signature program on MLB Network, airing at 7:00 PM EST Monday through Friday. It features news reports and analysis of all offseason moves as teams prepare for the upcoming season.
  • Quick Pitch: A 60-minute daily fast-paced show of highlights from that day's games. Premiered April 12. Currently, it debuts at 1 a.m. ET overnights, airing again at 2 a.m. and then in a continuous loop from 5 a.m. to 1 p.m. ET Monday through Friday.
  • World Baseball Classic Tonight: A show similar to MLB Tonight, World Baseball Classic Tonight featured highlights, analysis and special reports on the tournament.


Originals

  • All Time Games: Classic baseball games. The premiere episode on January 1 was a kinescope of NBC's coverage of Game 5 of the 1956 World Series in which Don Larsen hurled the Fall Classic's only perfect game, framed by a sit-down interview with Larsen and Yogi Berra, who caught the game, by Bob Costas, and included all original Gillette advertisements from the NBC coverage.
  • 30 Teams in 30 Days: In February, the network embarked on a month-long tour of spring training camps with John Hart as host, coming from a different facility each day. The theme music is a brief clip of the song "C'mon C'mon" by The Von Bondies.
  • 30 Teams, 30 Report Cards: A sequel to 30 Teams in 30 Days, in July, host John Hart looks back at predictions made during the spring and grades each team's performance thus far through the season.
  • 30 Clubs, 30 Recaps: The offseason version of the above, recapped each team's season and looks ahead to next season.
  • Diamond Demos: An instructional show featuring an expert in a certain aspect of baseball. Episodes have included infielding with Ozzie Smith, catching with Joe Girardi, outfielding with Torii Hunter, pitching with Jeff Brantley, and coaching with Buck Showalter. Premiered April 6.
  • October Classics is complete re-airings of World Series in their entirety. Each week a different series has been featured, starting with 2008 and going backwards.
  • Prime 9: A series devoted to the topic of the nine greatest in anything involved with baseball.
  • The Pen: A reality series looking at the bullpen of the Philadelphia Phillies throughout 2009.
  • Studio 42 with Bob Costas is an interview show with prominent baseball figures. The premiere episode on February 5 was with Joe Torre about his new tell-all book The Yankee Years, which has been regarded as controversial among Yankees players, especially Alex Rodriguez.


Documentaries

  • Baseball's Seasons: A documentary series set against the events of a certain baseball season.
  • Inside the Moments: A series premiering January 2 that features memorable moments and the stories behind them. The first five episodes are: "Aura of the Home Run", "Icons of the Game", "Unforgettable Feats", "Magic on the Mound" and "Fall Classic Finales".
  • Pride and Perseverance: The Story of the Negro Leagues: A one-hour special narrated by Hall of Famer Dave Winfield on the history of Negro League Baseball prior to Jackie Robinson's debut on April 15, .
  • Rising Sons: A documentary on how Japanese players have adjusted to life in America.
  • The MLB Network has aired two new documentaries: We Are Young, a story about Dmitri Young, Delmon Young, and their father, Larry Young, and a series about Josh Hamilton named Josh Hamilton: Resurrecting the Dream.


Repeats



Studios

The Secaucus-based studios have two main sets, named after famous players. "Studio 3", named in honor of Babe Ruth, serves as the home plate for all studio programs, while "Studio 42", honoring Jackie Robinson, is a half-scale baseball field where demonstrations by the network's analysts takes place. The studio includes seating for over 125 people, and a real-time out of town scoreboard based on those similar to PNC Parkmarker, Citizens Bank Parkmarker and Citi Fieldmarker.

The network had planned to launch permanent studios from a new tower in Manhattan's Harlemmarker neighborhood by 2011 ; however due to the 2008 financial crisis, the building project was scaled back and later cancelled in late November 2008.

See also



References

  1. MLB Network Headquarters,
  2. Dish Network Official Site - MLB Extra Innings Information
  3. Marcus DiNitto, MLB Network: What you will see on Jan. 1, Sporting News, November 22, 2008
  4. Broadcasting Decision CRTC 2008-171
  5. William Houston, " Baseball TV may launch this year", The Globe and Mail, January 7, 2009
  6. Broadcasting & Cable December 17, 2008 MLB Steps Up to the Plate
  7. Multichannel News 12/27/08 MLB Network Transferring 30 World Series Films to HD Format
  8. DirecTV channel changes
  9. MLB Network secures agreement with Verizon FiOS TV
  10. Multichannel News 12/30/08 Cablevision Sends MLB Network Up in Standard, HD Formats
  11. Cox San Diego lineup
  12. Time Warner Cable - Channel Finder
  13. Brighthouse Network Tampa Bay channel lineup
  14. MLB Network Seven Days to Go
  15. Multichannel News February 3, 2009 Costas Joins MLB Network's Team
  16. tampabay.com Magrane leaving TV booth for MLB Network
  17. yardbarker.com December 6, 2008 Dan Plesac joins MLB Network
  18. MLB Network adds Jim Kaat and Billy Ripken to on-air talent lineup
  19. New York Times October 2, 2008 A Network to Satisfy the Appetite of Baseball-Hungry Fans
  20. TV Week March 25, 2009 MLB Network Sets Thursday Night Baseball Lineup
  21. TV Week April 9, 2009 MLB Network adds Saturday games
  22. MLB Network schedule April 13, 2009
  23. MLB Network to televise 2009 World Baseball Classic
  24. MLB Network 1/1/09 Schedule
  25. MLBNetwork schedule April 6, 2009
  26. Mcall.com Joe Torre defends book at first signing session in New York
  27. Sports Business Journal August 4, 2008 MLB Network’s Harlem plans an unnecessary distraction



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