Carriage? YES. Basic? Maybe


With its launch less than eight weeks away, Yankees Entertainment and Sports Network might not get the distribution lineup it wants.

Sources last week said Cablevision Systems Corp. might distribute the fledgling regional sports network — set to launch on March 19 and carry 130 New York Yankees regular-season baseball games— on a pay tier, undermining YES's game plan to operate as a basic channel.

If Cablevision or other MSOs that serve the New York DMA were to carry YES as a premium channel, the network's subscription base could be curtailed and its advertiser reach diminished.

Sources said YES is looking for $1.70 to $1.80 per subscriber from operators on a monthly basis. If the channel were to air as a premium, it could cost subscribers up to $10 per month, according to sources.

YES officials deferred comment to CEO Leo Hindery, who did not return phone calls.

"We expect to reach an agreement with YES," said a Cablevision spokesman, declining to elaborate on specifics of the negotiations.

Time Warner Cable is also talking to YES officials about carriage.

"We are optimistic that we will reach an agreement in time for the season," Time Warner Cable spokesman Mike Luftman said. "We would like to carry the games and our customers want to watch the Yankees."

He declined to comment on where what he called "active negotiations" would position YES.

Time Warner carries MSG Network, the Yankees' former cable home, on expanded basic. Cablevision offers MSGN, which it owns, as either a basic or premium service, depending on the system.

Neal Pilson, the former CBS Sports president and principal of sports consultancy Pilson Communications, expects negotiations to go down to the wire.

"I don't think YES will accept being a premium service, at least initially," Pilson said. "One would expect there will be last-minute pyrotechnics and the possibility of elected officials getting involved and saying the Yankees must be on the air."

Added a source familiar with YES: "Negotiations are ongoing. Leo is going to [Cablevision CEO] James Dolan's wedding [in Florida this past weekend]. These things take time."

"YES was conceived and is being presented as a basic service," noted a source in the sports community. "The advertising staffers are making their presentations to agencies and clients on that basis."

YES, which recently announced the addition of a simulcast of Mike and The Mad Dog
— a popular local radio show on WFAN — to its daytime lineup, is expected to unveil more programming during the first week of February.

"You're looking at historical shows involving the team, and the use of current Yankees players. There will also be a magazine show," said one source.