Mets’ Net In Carriage Hunt

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The start of baseball’s regular season is still two months away, but the New York Mets’ rookie channel is pitching local distributors hard. While SportsNet New York’s roster counts 3 million subscribers from partners Time Warner Cable and Comcast Corp., it has yet to reach a deal with satellite distributors or other area cable oprators, notably the 3 million subscriber Cablevision Systems Corp., which is expected to play hardball with the regional sports network.

“Those [carriage] discussions are ongoing, but we’re confident and expect to be available to all subscribers within our footprint at launch,” said SNY president Jon Litner. “We’re platform-agnostic, so we want to make it available to all of our viewers through cable, through satellite distribution, as well as the phone companies.”

Slated to bow on March 16 with the first of 11 Mets exhibition games, the network has the rights to 150 of the team’s regular-season contests, 25 of which have been sold to local Tribune broadcast-TV station WPIX-TV. Time Warner Cable executive vice president of programming Fred Dressler is negotiating directly with Cablevision, whose FSN New York and Madison Square Garden Network carried Mets games until last season.

Litner, a former ABC Sports and National Hockey League programming executive, would not comment on the network’s rate card, but industry executives close to the company said it falls within the $1.50 to $1.75 range. That’s less than $2.12 to $2.25 license fee for Yankees Entertainment & Sports Network, which carries the New York Yankees and the National Basketball Association’s New Jersey Nets, or the approximately combined $4 fee for MSGN and FSNY.

“We’re confident [the rate card] is very reasonable and it’ll be a terrific service for our affiliates,” Litner said.

Representatives from Cablevision, direct-broadcast satellite provider DirecTV Inc. and RCN Corp. did not return calls by press time.

SNY will also feature more than 230 hours of programming centered around the National Football League’s New York Jets.

News programming, which Litner says will be the most in-depth of any within the New York market, will be SNY’s other anchor. Originating from its studio location at 30 Rockefeller Center in Manhattan, the RSN will telecast three live news shows daily, focusing primarily on all the city’s pro and college sports teams, as well as other sports events around the New York City tri-state area.

Along with its own news reporters and resources, Litner said the network will be able to make a call to the bullpen for programming from Comcast’s regional sports networks in Chicago, Philadelphia, Sacramento and Baltimore/Washington.

SNY will also feature magazine shows and other “interesting concepts” that Litner would not reveal. The network is also talking to Comcast-owned national services like The Golf Channel and OLN about shared programming opportunities.

As for live sports events, Litner said the network will offer Big East and Big Ten college basketball and football packages. “We are in discussions with other pro leagues and colleges about creating relationships,” he said.

On the advertising side, Litner said the network’s sales team has approached more than 70 clients, but would not disclose whether any deals had been signed.

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