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MLB Network to open with Larsen's 1956 perfecto

(Credit: Watchdog)

MLB Network boss Tony Petitti and high-ranking MLB exec Tim Brosnan appeared Wednesday at the Sports Business Journal's Sports Media & Technology conference, sponsored by the Fantasy Sports Association, to talk about the new network, launching Jan. 1.

Apparently the first show will be the first televised re-run of Don Larsen's 1956 perfect game.

I haven't gotten over being inadvertently overlooked for an invite to a fund-raising showing of that game at the Yogi Berra Museum in February, 2007.

Larsen and Yogi Berra were in attendance, both seeing it for the first time since it happened, a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for a sports media critic. Sigh.

Click below for highlights of the Brosnan/Petitti thing. I cut and pasted it off Sports Business Daily, which is a subscription site. If that's illegal, I trust my friends at SBJ/SBD will tell me so and I will take it down forthwith.Day one of the 10th annual Fantasy Sports Associations Sports Media & Technology Conference featured an interview with MLB Exec VP/Business Tim Brosnan and MLB Network President & CEO Tony Petitti, both of whom addressed a wide variety of issues related to MLB Network, its planned Jan. 1 launch and its place within the sports media landscape.

The issue: Baseball’s latest set of cable deals, signed in '06, that moved all of the divisional playoff round and half of the league championships to cable via an alignment with Turner Sports. The issue is again topical with ESPN’s recent acquisition of TV rights to the BCS beginning in 2010.

The skinnny: The jury is still out in the effectiveness of the deal, Brosnan said.

Greatest hit: “Turner’s [ratings] performance was pretty good this year, and not so good last year,” Brosnan said. “The promotion has been really good, but we need to teach viewers that these games are on Turner and where Turner is [on the channel lineup].” Brosnan additionally stamped out any near-term possibility of the World Series shifting to cable. “If the World Series is on cable, it means a lot of other sports have gone therefirst [with their championships]. The commissioner’s views of our championship being on free TV are pretty sacrosanct.”

The issue: MLB Network will set a cable-industry record with initial distribution to more than 50 million homes. But for the network to achieve its full potential, many more homes are needed.

The skinny: Petitti and Brosnan are pushing to get carriage with additional distributors.

Greatest hit: “It’s a knife fight out there for those [additional] homes. But we’re up for the joust,” Brosnan said. “We believe the quality and depth of the content and the standard of production we are striving to are going to help make that case for us.”

The issue: The network’s home in Secaucus, N.J., in the former MSNBC studio.

The skinny: The operation will definitively stay there for the long-term after unsuccessfully seeking to develop a high-end office tower in Manhattan’s Harlem neighborhood with Vornado Realty Trust. The deal, troubled for months, collapsed in the face of the evaporating credit markets.

Greatest hit: “With all the delays we were facing, we had to make a decision as to the extent we built out our HD component in Secaucus,” Petitti said. “The timeline that we would be in Secaucus shifted from a year or so initially to at least two years. We then made the decision to really go all out and have full HD in Secaucus, and that really changed the dynamics of the whole thing.”

The issue: MLB Network’s standing as a potential bidder for additional game rights now held by national carriers such as Fox, ESPN and Turner. The channel will start with a non-exclusive package of 26 games in '09, airing once a week on either Thursday or Saturday nights.

Petitti Insists MLB Network Talent

Will Have Free Voice On-The-Air

The skinny: League officials intend the network to be a viable competitor for future rights.

Greatest hit: “The goal in five years is to be in a position to bid for another package of games,” Petitti said.

The issue: MLB Network’s editorial independence as a league-owned venture.

The skinny: Petitti insisted that network talent, which so far includes Harold Reynolds and Al Leiter, will have a relatively free voice to say what they need to on air.

Greatest hit: “This issue, obviously, has come up a lot as we’ve gone after talent. But we need to be credible, and everybody involved knows that,” Petitti said.

The issue: What will the initial programming look like at the Jan. 1 launch?

The skinny: A first-ever re-airing of Don Larsen’s perfect game in the '56 World Series will give way to a nightly studio show and some archival material. Come February, a leaguewide trip through all 30 Spring Training camps will precede coverage of some World Baseball Classic games in March.

Greatest hit: “Early on, there’s obviously going to be a reliance on tape and studio material. But overall, we’ll have over 1,400 live hours of programming in the first year, and we think that’s pretty good for a start-up,” Petitti said.

Tags: mlb network

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