MLB Network Closer to Fruition

By Dave Sheinin
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, May 18, 2007

NEW YORK, May 17 -- Major League Baseball took a significant step toward the planned 2009 launch of the MLB Network on Thursday, when the league's owners approved contracts with 36 cable and satellite distributors.

League executives said they expect the 24-hour-a-day network to launch on Jan. 1, 2009, into 47 million homes, which would make it by far the biggest launch in cable television history.

"This isn't a tiny little niche network," said Tim Brosnan, baseball's executive vice president for business. Brosnan said MSNBC held the previous record, launching into around 27.8 million homes in 1996.

Brosnan said the network expects to carry 26 live games in its first year, with Saturday night the likeliest time slot, but acknowledged the network's success will depend on "the creativity of the non-game programming that we present."

Commissioner of Baseball Bud Selig took questions from the media at the meeting's conclusion but again declined to answer repeated questioning about whether he plans to attend Barry Bonds's expected record-breaking home run later this season. Bonds entered Thursday's play with 745 career homers, 10 behind Hank Aaron's all-time record.

"I don't have anything different to say today," Selig said. "I'll make my decision at an appropriate time." Selig testily cut off additional questions relating to Bonds.

Selig also declined to comment about the progress of the internal investigation into steroids use in baseball being headed by former senator George Mitchell, other than to say it was not discussed at the owners' meeting.

© 2007 The Washington Post Company