U.S. baseball signs cable TV deal with iN DEMAND

NEW YORK Thu Apr 5, 2007 2:00am EDT

Boston Red Sox Jason Varitek hits a sacrifice fly to score Manny Ramirez in the sixth inning against the Kansas City Royals during their American League baseball game in Kansas City, April 4, 2007. REUTERS/Dave Kaup

Boston Red Sox Jason Varitek hits a sacrifice fly to score Manny Ramirez in the sixth inning against the Kansas City Royals during their American League baseball game in Kansas City, April 4, 2007.

Credit: Reuters/Dave Kaup

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NEW YORK (Reuters) - Major League Baseball said cable TV group iN DEMAND had struck a deal to carry MLB's "Extra Innings" package for broadcast outside a team's local market, broadening the potential audience to some 40 million homes.

The iN DEMAND owners -- Comcast, Cox Communications and Time Warner Cable -- will also distribute the MLB Channel when it is launched in January 2009, said MLB, the governing body for the professional game in the United States as it announced the seven year deal.

The iN DEMAND trio agreed to carry the package with immediate effect. The package also is available via satellite TV provider, DIRECTV.

The deal follows complaints from lawmakers and fans that a deal between DIRECTV and MLB struck in March would disenfranchise viewers who previously watched "Extra Innings" on cable services or rival satellite network DISH, owned by EchoStar Communications Corp..

IN DEMAND also offered to make the Extra Innings subscription package available to other cable companies across the United States, MLB said. These operators also would be required to carry the MLB Channel once launched.

MLB said its deals with DIRECTV and iN DEMAND mean the MLB Channel, which will broadcast baseball 24 hours a day all year, is expected to launch in 40 million homes.

Chase Carey, chief executive of DIRECTV said his company is pleased with its revised agreement with MLB.

"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, Carey said.

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