Major League Baseball announced a seven-year deal on Thursday with DirecTV that will allow the satellite provider to continue its carriage rights of the league’s “Extra Innings” package.
Though the deal was discussed as being exclusive throughout the negotiating process, league officials surprised many by announcing that the contract includes a provision that allows other incumbent broadcasters -- In Demand and DISH Network -- the right to carry the package if they can reach an agreement on terms in line with DirecTV’s commitment. In Demand and DISH Network would also have to carry The Baseball Channel, which is supposed to launch in 2009, on its basic channels. Any deal would have to be struck by March 31 in order for In Demand and DISH Network customers to have access to the Extra Innings package.
There had been significant pressure exerted on Major League Baseball when rumors spread that the deal was going to be a DirecTV exclusive. That would have excluded about 45 million fans from ordering the “Extra Innings” package, though only about 200,000 ordered the package in 2006.
As part of the deal, DirecTV has agreed to become a minority partner in The Baseball Channel.
Darren Rovell, who covers sports business for CNBC, can be reached as firstname.lastname@example.org.