Meet the Mets for Yankees’ Network?

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The Yankees Entertainment & Sports Network could feature home runs and pitches from the Yankees’ crosstown rival New York Mets, as well as other live-event programming, with newly named YES chairman Tracy Dolgin at the helm.

Dolgin said he would consider adding more live programming to the service’s current lineup featuring games of Major League Baseball’s New York Yankees and the National Basketball Association’s New Jersey Nets. The former president of Fox Sports Net, he was named head of the New York-based regional sports network last week. He replaces Leo Hindery, who resigned the position of YES chairman last April.

Dolgin declined to speculate on whether the network would aggressively bid on New York Mets baseball games or New Jersey Devils National Hockey League games. Along with the Yankees and Nets, YES also offers live Ivy League college football and basketball games.

The Mets earlier this year exercised an out clause in their current deal with FSN New York. (Game telecasts are currently split between FSN and co-owned Madison Square Garden Network.) The Devils’ deal with FSN New York ends in 2006.

“The good news is with the Yankees and the Nets, we have great live game programming 12 months a year, but that doesn’t mean that things can’t be added,” Dolgin said during a conference call last week. “I welcome those discussions that we’ll have with any new [content provider] that comes along to see whether or not its additive to the network.”

Dolgin also would not rule out the possibility of adding sports news-oriented programming similar to ESPN’s SportsCenter, but said the main focus of the channel will remain coverage of the Yankees and Nets. YES currently simulcasts New York-based sports-talk radio station WFAN’s Mike and The Mad Dog afternoon show.

“The nature of programming on the network is evolutionary and [YES] has done a great job in two years and doing some incredible programming that supports the games,” Dolgin said. “We’re a sports network of the fan. And having the fan’s point of view and what the fan wants to see, that’s who we have to cater to.”

Dolgin was most recently managing director and co-head of the media, sports and entertainment group and investment bank firm Houlihan Lokey Howard & Zukin, which also served as an adviser to YES.

Dolgin would not say whether he testified during the YES arbitration hearing against Cablevision Systems Corp. regarding the MSO’s carriage of the network. Cablevision and YES had a bitter, high-profile feud over expanded positioning, which shut the MSO’s subscribers out from watching the network during its rookie 2002 campaign.

The parties reached an arbitration-pushed interim settlement within hours of the start of the 2003 season. This past March, an arbitrator’s decision put YES on the MSO’s expanded-basic tier for the next six years, and Cablevision must guarantee payments on 90% of its customer footprint.

As a result of that decision, YES can now be viewed by some 2.5 million Cablevision customers, up from an estimated 1.5 million during 2003.

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