Three days into "extra innings" Major League Baseball came to a seven-year agreement with iN DEMAND to have the cable provider offer its Extra Innings package to cable operators across the country. The deal, which had already been inked by DirecTV, ends months of acrimony and gives baseball fans the opportunity to renew the package with their local operators rather than switch to the satellite provider. EchoStar Satellite LLC is the lone entity that still hasn't come to an agreement. Those cable operators that agree to carry the product would also be required to offer the new MLB Channel on its basic tier when it is launched in 2009.
"Our chief goal throughout the process was to ensure that fans would have access to as many baseball games and as much baseball coverage as possible," Bob DuPuy, MLB's president and chief operating officer, said in a release. "With this agreement, the MLB Channel will launch with an unprecedented platform. We are pleased with the launch of the MLB Channel to so many homes coupled with our agreement to extend the distribution of MLB Extra Innings with iN DEMAND." MLB and iN DEMAND had been put under increasing pressure from Congress to come to an agreement so that fans without satellite access would still able to view out-of-market games. When the DirecTV deal was announced on Feb. 8, MLB set a deadline of Opening Night this past Sunday for iN DEMAND and EchoStar to match the same terms. But that deadline was extended Sunday as the parties continued to negotiate. DirecTV agreed last month to carry the package for seven years and took a 20 percent stake in the MLB Channel, which will be offered on its basic tier beginning in 2009. DirecTV had agreed to pay $700 million for that exclusivity, but that deal will be structured for less money since the satellite provider has lost its exclusivity. A cable provider, iN DEMAND offers its products to systems around the country such as Cox, Time-Warner, Comcast and Cablevision. Chase Carey, president and chief executive of DirecTV, said last month that the deal would work for his company "on either front." "You're asking what would I prefer between the two?" Carey said. "Exclusivity would probably have been the preferred path. But we've reached an accommodation that would work either way for us." MLB.TV is also again offering its package of out-of-market games via the Internet.
Barry M. Bloom is a national reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.