(Adds iN Demand response)
NEW YORK, March 21 (Reuters) - Major League Baseball said on Wednesday an offer from U.S. cable television operators to match its deal with DirecTV Group Inc. DTV.N on out-of-market games fell short of key requirements.
iN Demand Networks, the cable-owned pay-per-view network, said they had matched the terms of a seven-year deal between MLB and satellite operator DirecTV to show the “Extra Innings” package of out-of-market baseball games, estimated to be worth as much as $700 million.
But MLB President Bob DuPuy said the iN Demand offer was not responsive to MLB’s offer. “In spite of their public comments, the response falls short of nearly all of the material conditions set forth in the offer made to them on March 9,” DuPuy said in statement.
iN Demand, owned by Time Warner Inc. TWX.N, Comcast Corp. CMCSA.O and Cox Communications Inc., also offered to carry the proposed The Baseball Channel when it starts in 2009 on the same terms as DirecTV, and said it would reach at least the same number of subscribers.
However MLB said the cable operators had failed to meet its requirements for carriage of The Baseball Channel and over their share of the rights fees for Extra Innings.
In answer to MLB’s rejection, iN Demand insisted in a statement that it had met all of the sport league’s requirements.
“By rejecting this matching offer, MLB has proven it never intended for iN Demand to have a fair and equal opportunity to bid for Extra Innings,” said iN Demand Chief Executive Robert Jacobson.
“We, like many, many others, question MLB’s commitment to its fans by limiting distribution for both Extra Innings and The Baseball Channel,” he added in the statement.
MLB and DirecTV announced the Extra Innings programming deal on March 8. MLB said at the time the deal was nonexclusive and it would allow MLB Extra Innings to be offered to incumbents iN Demand and EchoStar Communications Corp. DISH.O at consistent rates and carriage requirements as with DirecTV.
Extra Innings packages are designed to enable baseball fans to watch teams outside of their local market.
“As the current home for Extra Innings for more than 200,000 cable subscribers, we have extended ourselves to do our best to be able to continue to provide this package to baseball fans and our customers,” said Jacobson.
MLB said the offer to match the terms of the agreement reached with DirecTV remains open to iN Demand and EchoStar’s DISH satellite network until March 31.
((Reporting by Yinka Adegoke, editing by Tim Dobbyn; e-mail:email@example.com Reuters Messaging: Yinka.firstname.lastname@example.org; +1 646 223 6081)) Keywords: INDEMAND DIRECTV/
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