YES network taps New York Yankees in campaign against Comcast

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(Reuters) - Twenty-First Century Fox Inc’s YES Network is looking to hit a home run with one of its most valuable assets in a fight with cable provider Comcast Corp: the New York Yankees.

The sports regional network, which is 80 percent owned by Fox and 20 percent owned by the Yankees, is launching a multimedia campaign featuring Yankees players that asks Comcast subscribers to switch cable providers before baseball season starts next month.

The campaign, which will include television, print, radio outdoor and digital spots, is the most public effort by the sports network to rally viewers since Comcast dropped YES in November, when the two sides failed to come to an agreement for a carriage agreement. The blackout affects 900,000 Comcast subscribers in New Jersey, Connecticut and Pennsylvania.

“The reason we are doing this is because we need to inform Yankees fans, which predominate this area, that they need to switch off Comcast to a new distributor or else there is a very good likelihood that they will not only miss opening day, but they will miss the whole season,” Tracy Dolgin, president and CEO of YES Network, told Reuters Tuesday.

One ad, reviewed by Reuters, features Yankees pitcher Dellin Betances, with the headline “COMCAST XFINITY STRIKES OUT,” advising viewers to drop Comcast for another provider.

For its part, Comcast argues that more than 90 percent of its customers did not watch even one-quarter of the baseball games on YES last season.

“Given the customer viewership data we have, the price/value proposition for the YES network did not justify the price that FOX was asking for the network.”

YES, which is the most watched regional sports network in the country according to media tracker Nielsen Holdings, plans to run the ad campaign until an agreement is met, Dolgin said. There are currently no negotiations ongoing, he said.

Yankees’ opening day is April 4th, when they will be playing the Houston Astros at Yankee stadium.

Reporting By Jessica Toonkel; Editing by Alan Crosby