SBJ/March 28 - April 3, 2005/SBJ In Depth

MLB-owned network projected to launch this fall

More than seven months after MLB owners made an unconditional financial commitment to start a league-owned television network, little else has materialized publicly about what the channel will look like, who will run it and when it will launch.

Tim Brosnan, MLB executive vice president of business, said the league has been “laying the groundwork” for the channel and that “all things being equal, we continue to shoot for” launching in the early fall.

What kind of programming the channel will have is unclear, although Brosnan has indicated that MLB plans to follow in the path of the NFL Network, which combines its extensive archived footage with studio shows and other original programming built around the league’s access to the players.

Creating programming for the network is more complicated for MLB than for any of the other leagues because MLB has to be concerned with infringing on both its television partners and on its separate Internet arm, MLB Advanced Media.

MLB officials are said to be reviewing a short list of candidates to be general manager of the network. Brosnan would not comment on the hiring process, but MLB is expected to make a selection in April.

In August, MLB owners made a 10-year, unconditional financial commitment to the channel, meaning the expense will be covered regardless of the final cost. Startup costs, Brosnan said then, would be in line with other sports and national cable networks, likely at least $100 million.

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