Verizon Communications said it is currently in negotiations with Major League Baseball to offer the league’s Extra Innings package to FiOS TV subscribers, but the telco cautioned that there’s no guarantee a deal will be done by the time the season starts.
“This is a popular service, and we want to be able to offer that to FiOS customers,” Verizon senior vice president of media relations Eric Rabe said. “We’re hopefully finishing up the negotiations” with MLB, but, he added, “I can’t guarantee that the deal will be done.”
Rabe declined to say whether Verizon has agreed to carry the league’s 24-hour MLB Channel, expected to launch in 2009, as part of the Extra Innings negotiations.
MLB representatives did not respond to requests for comment by press time.
The league has required any pay TV provider that wants to distribute Extra Innings to also widely distribute the forthcoming MLB Channel. Originally, MLB last year inked a $700 million deal granting exclusive distribution rights for the out-of-market games package to DirecTV.
After drawing political heat for limiting access to Extra Innings games, MLB cut a similar deal the following month with In Demand Networks, owned by Comcast, Cox Communications, Time Warner Cable and Advance/Newhouse Communications.
Both DirecTV and the cable companies gained an ownership stake in the linear MLB service, whose first pitch is slated for Jan. 1, 2009.
The Extra Innings package offers subscribers as many as 60 out-of-market games a week during the regular season, with some contests available in high-definition.
Even if Verizon and MLB come to terms on a deal, Extra Innings would not be available in every FiOS TV market immediately. Verizon must reconfigure each of its 13 video hub offices around the country to be able to carry the service, Rabe said, a process that could take somewhere around eight weeks.
“Typically when we add new services, we add them one office at a time,” he said.