Cable Scores Baseball Deal

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Major League Baseball struck a seven-year deal with In Demand Thursday night that will see the distributor’s cable owners to distribute the league’s MLB Extra Innings subscription package and its planned MLB Channel.

The deal comes a few weeks after DirecTV struck a seven-year $700 million deal that gave it rights to Extra Innings and an equity stake in MLB Channel. But it’s not clear if In Demand owners Comcast, Time Warner Cable, Cox Communications and Advance/Newhouse also will get equity in MLB Channel.

Under the agreement the league reached with DirecTV March 8, the direct-broadcast satellite provider was set to receive 20% equity in the new network, but In Demand and DirecTV will now get 16% apiece, a source familiar with the deal told AP.

The league said Thursday that its agreements with In Demand and DirecTV will put MLB channel in 40 million homes when it debuts in 2009.

EchoStar Communications still hasn’t reached an agreement to carry Extra Innings or MLB Channel, AP reported.

MLB’s original deal with DirecTV required the DBS provider to deliver the channel to all of its subscribers. The league gave In Demand’s cable affiliates an opportunity to match DirecTV’s offer, which would have required cable operators to offer MLB Channel on expanded basic tiers.

MLB and In Demand didn’t disclose terms of the agreement for Extra Innings and MLB Channel, including which programming tier In Demand affiliates will distribute the channel on.

The In Demand agreement with MLB still must be finalized.

MLB and In Demand agreed to resume talks last week under pressure from Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.).

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