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Thread: Secaucus Home For MLB Network

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    Jersey Patriot JCMAN320's Avatar
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    May 2003
    Jersey City

    Cool Secaucus Home For MLB Network

    Secaucus is already home to NBA TV, now it will be home to MLB TV!!! MLB says no thanks to Harlem and says Hello to Secaucus

    A Network to Satisfy the Appetite of Baseball-Hungry Fans

    Published: October 2, 2008

    Aaron Houston for The New York Times
    Tony Petitti, the president of the new MLB Network, in its master control room in Secaucus, N.J. Opening day is set for Jan. 1.

    Major League Baseball does not believe there is enough baseball on television.

    It wants ubiquity, a 24/7 home, so it is building its own cable channel, the MLB Network, in Secaucus, N.J., with opening day scheduled for Jan. 1. The idea behind a league-owned network is not new. The N.F.L., the N.B.A. and the N.H.L. preceded baseball, but all share a goal: to feed a rabid fan base and to relentlessly promote their sport.

    “We want to be the authentic home of baseball,” said Tony Petitti, the president of the new network and the former No. 2 executive at CBS Sports behind Sean McManus. Petitti has never worked professionally in baseball, but he was a catcher at Haverford College (class of 1983).

    His coach, Greg Kannerstein, who is now the college’s dean, said Friday that Petitti was “a good catcher with a rifle arm” who, “if he had hit a little better, he’d have played major league baseball instead of televising it.”

    Unsuccessful talks between CBS and baseball two years ago led Petitti to the MLB Network. “He was incredibly thoughtful and honest in our discussions,” said Tim Brosnan, baseball’s executive vice president for business. “He’s uniquely qualified.”

    The shift to running a baseball network, rather than overseeing production of all of CBS’s sports, means focusing on a sport whose fans have local appetites.

    They follow their teams on local outlets or on Fox, ESPN or TBS.

    “We want to be the next choice for baseball fans,” Petitti said. “We want them to know that we’re here, and we can get you caught up. We’re another tool to enjoy the game.”

    Petitti spoke during a tour of the network’s building in an industrial park, the former MSNBC studio where Keith Olbermann fulminated and tossed crumpled paper. [u]Baseball had expected to make Secaucus a temporary stop until a proposed building in Harlem was ready. But the real estate deal in Harlem is dormant, if not altogether dead.

    And baseball’s conversion of what MSNBC left behind into an all-high-definition facility augurs for a lengthy stay. The project is costing about $54 million, an investment that led New Jersey last month to approve an $8 million employment incentive grant. “This is likely to be our permanent place,” Petitti said.

    The architectural plans for the facility look lavish, with two enormous studios (one is designed to look like a ballpark). But the network will be judged by its programming, including the centerpiece “MLB Tonight” studio program, which during the season will offer updates, live game look-ins and wrap-ups from 7 p.m. until at least 1 a.m. Eastern.

    The network will install two robotic cameras at each stadium to enhance its studio programming. “There’s enough interest in what we’ll do,” Petitti said. “We’re selling the accumulation of everything. It’s not about access to one club; it’s about access to all 30.”

    One live regular-season game will be seen on the network on either Thursday or Saturday night. But it will be a simulcasted version of a game produced in one of the teams’ local markets, and the MLB Network feed will be seen only outside that area.

    There will also be archival, hot stove, reality, youth and spring training programming, as well as World Baseball Classic, minor league and Caribbean World Series games.

    The roster of commentators is expected to include Harold Reynolds and Al Leiter, but one of Petitti’s tasks will be to hire someone to be the undisputed voice of the network.

    If the MLB Network wants to be the fan’s second choice, as Petitti said, then must it convert devotees of ESPN’s “Baseball Tonight” or regional networks to its side?

    Petitti said the MLB channel’s all-baseball format would rope in enough viewers to make the venture succeed. Len DeLuca, an ESPN senior vice president, said, “We feel the MLB Network will draw more fans to the set, which can only benefit our franchises, ‘Baseball Tonight’ and Sunday night and Monday and Wednesday night baseball.”

    Still, Tom Werner, a Red Sox owner, said: “If you create a channel for baseball, you’re competing with ESPN because ESPN is the place where you’d find information about baseball. Hopefully, we’ll be the source if you want to know what’s going on.”

    Thanks to negotiations, some bizarre and some fractious, the MLB Network will begin with an endowment of more than 50 million subscribers, which will provide the channel with a level of cash that Werner said would make it break even immediately.

    Baseball is swapping one-third ownership of its channel with DirecTV, Comcast, Time Warner and Cox for wide distribution, thus avoiding the kind of ongoing distribution turf war that the NFL Network is having with Big Cable.

    “Anybody with 50 million or more in distribution has a salable, working business model,” said Neal Pilson, an industry consultant. “Tony’s challenge will be to have provocative, interesting and stimulating programming.”

    Last edited by JCMAN320; December 11th, 2008 at 05:12 PM.

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