It was a very busy off-season for MLB Network.
Baseball’s in-house service renewed all of its expiring carriage deals with the top 10 MPVDs and a slew of other carriers, and has broadened the base for its ad-hoc scoring and highlights networks, MLB Network Strike Zone.
Launching in 2009 in some 50 million homes, MLB Network’s initial round of affiliate agreements were co-terminus, concluding on Dec. 31. The spate of renewals with all of the major distributors, as well as smaller players, plus the addition of 20 newcomers, including Armstrong, Shenteland Fidelity Communications and the service’s first push north of the border with Rogers Cable, pushed MLB Network’s sub count to 70 million on Opening Day. That marked a 40% jump from its first pitch five years ago.
Network officials indicate that this set of deals have staggered term lengths, and include TV Everywhere rights for 24/7 streaming simulcasts of the network, including the ballgames. All told, MLB Network will air some 150 regular-season contests, plus a pair of games in the Division Series round of the playoffs.
The network declined to comment on the value of its monthly license fee. SNL Kagan estimated that figure at 23 cents per month in 2014.
Relative to MLB Network Strike Zone, which was rolled out during the 2012 as an added-value component for affiliates, the ad hoc channel is now carried by six of the top 10 distributors, as Cox and AT&T U-verse have joined veterans Bright House, DirecTV, Dish and Time Warner Cable.
MLB Network Strike Zone, which whizzes viewers on a trip around MLB on Tuesday and Friday nights during the regular season with up-to-the-minute highlights, live look-ins and updates, can also be accessed on systems/video platforms owned by BELD, Buckeye CableSystem, Celect Communications, Cincinnati Bell, Consolidated Communications, EPB Chattanooga, Google Fiber, ITV-3, OpenBand Multimedia, Service Electric Cable TV Inc. and Telapex.