MLB Network Bolsters On-Air Roster, Schedule As 2011 Campaign Heads Toward Stretch Run

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With Wild Card and, to a lesser extent, divisional races heating up, MLB Network has bolstered its on-air talent lineup and selected top games for its down-the-stretch schedule.
ESPN veteran Brian Kenny steps to MLB Network plate for the first time on Sept. 19 as he joins the roster of studio talent. He'll take his first cuts on Quick Pitch, the network's daily highlights show of record, before moving up and down the channel's lineup. Most recently anchor of the 6 p.m. (ET) edition of SportsCenter, and host of his self-titled radio show and Friday Night Fights on ESPN2, Kenny previously served as an ESPN anchor for Baseball Tonight, receiving a Sports Emmy Award in 2003. He also called play-by-play for ESPN's Wednesday Night Baseball and the World Baseball Classic, as well as hosting ESPN's coverage of the National Baseball Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony in Cooperstown, New York.
Kenny's arrival follows that of Sam Ryan as a studio host and reporter earlier this month. She most recently served as sports anchor and reporter for WCBS-TV in New York and as a contributor to CBS Sports' NFL and March Madness coverage.
The veterans will weigh in on the 2011 season's penultimate week schedule that will see the St. Louis Cardinals, who are making a National League Wild Card run as the Atlanta Braves stumble, take on the NL East champion Philadelphia Phillies at Citizens Bank Ballpark on Sept. 19 at 7 p.m.
From there, MLB Network will be spending some time in the Bronx, with coverage of the New York Yankees against Tampa Bay - at press time the Rays were only 1.5 games behind the slumping Boston Red Sox for the American League Wild Card at 7 p.m. -- slated for Sept. 20.
The Bronx Bombers-Rays will also be in view on Sept. 22 in the finale of their four-game set, before the Bosox visit their nemesis on Friday night at Yankee Stadium, where Matt Vasgersian and Jim Kaat will call the game live.
As the races tighten, MLB Network hopes to add to its Nielsen success. Over the first 11 weeks of the third quarter, the channel has registered a 40% increase to a total-day viewer average of 73,000 and 28% jump in primetime to 179,000 watchers
During the week of  Sept. 5-11, MLB Network -- perhaps benefiting from added reach emanating from the recent launch on Dish Network's channel 153 as part of the No. 2 DBS provider's America's Top 200, Latino Dos or multisport packages that has pushed its distribution to some 65 million homes -- scored a 50% rise in total-day and a 49% surge in primetime, fueled by a 69% advance among guys 18 to 34, according to Nielsen data.
MLB, which has plated 30 consecutive weeks of gains since pitchers and catchers reported in February, has gone deep with its game coverage overall, knocking in 35% amelioration season to date, according to network officials.