A clock is counting down the days until the Major League Baseball Network launches in 50 million homes on Jan. 1. It’s down to 41 days.
It’s not exactly the economic environment MLB Network President and CEO Tony Petitti envisioned for starting a new channel, but the number of homes – the largest for a league network – means guaranteed subscriber fees.
(By contrast, ESPN is in 98 million homes; the NFL Network, which launched five years ago, is now in 44 million homes).
Petitti said the network is aggressively pursuing advertisers beyond its corporate partners.
“Obviously it would have been much easier to be doing this a year ago,” Petitti said.
Appearing at the 10th annual Fantasy Sports Association's Sports Media & Technology conference in New York this week, Petitti outlined plans for the new channel:
The network will launch with “hot stove” shows five nights a week at 7 p.m. The network also has the rights to re-air the Don Larsen’s perfect game from the 1956 World Series, complete with the original commercials.
Spring training will bring a “30 clubs in 30 days” show when the network will visit each team’s camp. The network is also scheduled to broadcast 16 World Baseball Classic games.
Once the season starts, an "MLB Tonight" show will air starting at 6 p.m. and run until the end of the last west coast game, Petitti said.
“We want to be the second choice for fans,” Petitti said stressing that fans’ first choice should be their local team’s broadcast. “We built the show to be a complementary way for fans to watch baseball.”
Petitti anticipates the network will show 1,400 live hours during its first year, including 26 game telecasts. Within five years, he said, the network hopes to bid for another package of games. He said there are plans to air the network internationally, with Canada being the first target outside the U.S.