After a long, strange trip through P.R. land, I've discovered that Time Warner Cable really will have MLB Network available on New Year's Day for its launch.
In our previous blog entry, we recounted how Time Warner wasn't sure it could get MLB Network up and running before Jan. 17. This was all a big surprise to the people at MLB Network because as far as they knew, everything was hunky-dory for Jan. 1.
On Wednesday, about 27 hours before the scheduled 3 p.m. PST launch, the same Time Warner flack said he really hadn't been able to get a straight answer from his marketing people, but that Jan. 17 still looked right.
At this point, I leveled with the guy.
I told him it was looking like I was going to have to write a story saying MLB Network launches on New Year's Day, but probably not if you have Time Warner Cable. I told him considering Time Warner is a minority partner in MLB Network, and therefore had obviously known about it coming for more than a year, it frankly didn't make his company look very good to have all this confusion about it the day before its debut. He agreed and said he'd try to find out more.
Now obviously, Wednesday was a bad day for Time Warner all around because of its controversy with Viacom. Viacom is threatening to take 19 channels off Time Warner -- including Nickelodeon and Comedy Central -- because Time Warner doesn't want to pass along the increased subscriber fees Viacom is seeking. This won't end well. Sounds a lot like the NFL Network controversy, doesn't it?
But five minutes after I had hung up with the Time Warner Cable guy, he called back.
"I've got good news," he said, sounding genuinely pleased. He said the engineering people -- not the marketing people -- said they had "pulled it off" and that MLB Network would be available as promised on New Year's Day.
I turned on the TV after we hung up and -- lo and behold -- the channel was already there (it hadn't been there earlier in the morning), running a loop of MLB Network promos.
The column in Thursday's Star doesn't reflect all this interesting behavior (it really had little to do with the actual launching of the network), but I thought you might be interested to know the backstory.