YES on Basic? Maybe Not


With its launch less than eight weeks away, Yankees Entertainment and Sports
Network might not get the distribution lineup it wants.

Sources said Cablevision Systems Corp. might distribute the fledgling
regional sports network -- set to launch March 19 and carry 130 New York Yankees
regular-season Major League Baseball games -- on a pay tier, undermining YES'
game plan to operate as a basic channel.

If Cablevision or other MSOs that serve the New York DMA were to carry YES as
a premium channel, the network's subscription base could be curtailed and its
advertiser reach diminished.

Sources said YES is looking for $1.70 to $1.80 per subscriber from operators
on a monthly basis. If the channel were to air as a premium, it could cost
subscribers up to $10 per month, according to sources.

YES officials deferred comment to CEO Leo J. Hindery Jr., who did not return
phone calls.

'We expect to reach an agreement with YES,' a Cablevision spokesman said,
declining to elaborate on specifics of the negotiations.

Time Warner Cable is also talking with YES officials about carriage.

'We are optimistic that we will reach an agreement in time for the season,'
MSO spokesman Mike Luftman said. 'We would like to carry the games, and our
customers want to watch the Yankees.'

He declined to comment on where what he called 'active negotiations' would
position YES.

Time Warner carries Madison Square Garden Network, the Yankees' former cable
home, on expanded basic. Cablevision offers MSGN, which it owns, as either a
basic or premium service, depending on the system.

Neal Pilson, former CBS Sports president and principal of sports consultancy
Pilson Communications, expects negotiations to go down to the wire.

'I don't think YES will accept being a premium service, at least initially,'
Pilson said. 'One would expect that there will be last-minute pyrotechnics and
the possibility of elected officials getting involved and saying, `The Yankees
must be on the air.''

Added a source familiar with YES: 'Negotiations are ongoing. Leo is going to
[Cablevision CEO] James Dolan's wedding [in Florida Jan. 19]. These things take

'YES was conceived and is being presented as a basic service,' a source in
the sports community noted. 'The advertising staffers are making their
presentations to agencies and clients on that basis.'

YES -- which recently announced the addition of a simulcast of Mike and
the Mad Dog
, a popular local radio show on WFAN, to its daytime lineup -- is
expected to unveil more programming during the first week of February.

'You're looking at historical shows involving the team and the use of current
Yankees players. There will also be a magazine show,' one source