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MLB Network may have its debut delayed on Time Warner

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I was all set to write a TV column for Wednesday's Star about the new MLB Network, which debuts on New Year's Day.

I'm pretty excited about the new channel because I like baseball, but then I found out that Time Warner Cable may not roll out the channel until Jan. 17.

It all seemed rather weird to me because Time Warner is a minority partner in MLB Network. Why wouldn't it want to get the channel launched on time to all its cable systems?

But Time Warner spokesman Darryl Ryan said Tuesday negotiations were still under way between Major League Baseball and the cable company. Things like being able to roll out the accompanying HD channel and all that.

So I e-mailed MLB Network spokesman Matt Bourne to see if this was a recurring thread around the county with Time Warner. And this was all news to him.

"There are no ongoing negotiations," he replied. "We have a deal with Time Warner to air on Jan. 1. In fact, they have a minority partnership stake in MLB Network."

He also said the deal was for the channel to be on digital basic or expanded basic, not on a tier. Ryan had told me MLB Network was going to be on Time Warner's Variety Tier.

Ryan stuck to his guns after rechecking with his programming people.

Battle of the Network P.R. Flacks......

MLB Network is set to debut at 3 p.m. Thursday in 50 million homes nationwide. The network will be on Channel 213 on DirecTV. Ryan said when the channel does appear on Time Warner, it'll be on Channel 276.

For those who will be able to get the channel from the get-go, the first show seen will be "Hot Stove," which makes perfect sense in the dead of winter. That'll be followed at 4 by a showing of the original telecast of Don Larsen's perfect game in the 1956 World Series, featuring the original play-by-play by Mel Allen and Vin Scully and new commentary from Larsen and Yogi Berra.

Other primary offseason shows will include "Prime 9," a "list" show, naming the all-time top nine in different subjects, such as positions, comebacks, etc.; "Cathedrals of the Game," looking at the game's stadiums, both new and old; and "Baseball Seasons," a one-hour program recalling some of the game's most exciting years. Chapters of Ken Burns' documentary "Baseball" are also scheduled to be shown weekly.

MLB Network is expected to carry some live games too, perhaps on Thursdays, but details for that haven't been released yet.

What makes MLB Network different from NFL Network is you might actually be able to get MLB Network. Unlike the NFL, which sought (and still seeks) to have cable systems carry its network on basic digital cable at a high subscriber rate, Major League Baseball sought to bring cable systems along by offering them a stake in its network.

Time Warner, DirecTV, Comcast and Cox Communications have minority ownership of the new network, with baseball holding a controlling two-thirds share. That guaranteed MLB Network 50 million households at its launch -- larger than NFL Network, with about 43 million, has even today.

That is, if everybody gets to see it when they're supposed to.
Stay tuned to Thursday's Star.

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About this blog...
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Jim Carlisle writes Tuesday sports columns and Friday TV-Radio columns for The Star. He has been on the sports staff of the Star (and its Thousand Oaks predecessor, the News Chronicle) since 1983. Jim pledges in his blog not to take sports — or himself — too seriously.

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About this Entry

This page contains a single entry by Jim Carlisle published on December 30, 2008 5:26 PM.

From the Olympics to the Open was the previous entry in this blog.

Time Warner clears way for MLB Network is the next entry in this blog.

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