Baseball owners approve MLB Network

The MLB’s owners last week unanimously approved the launch of a TV network that will carry baseball programming 24 hours a day, including 26 live Saturday night games during the regular season. The network launch, the MLB said, will be the largest in history for any cable network.

Set to launch on Jan. 1, 2009, the MLB Network is expected to be available in 47 million cable and satellite homes. The channel will be 66.6 percent owned by MLB with the remaining shares to be held in partnership with Time Warner Cable, DIRECTV, Cox and Comcast.

The new MLB Network will also be made available on the basic or digital tier of all of MLB’s partner services, rather than the sports tiers, which usually cost extra.

According to Tim Brosnan, executive VP of business for the MLB, the seven-year deal is guaranteed at $80 million a year, with an upside potential of the MLB earning more each season based on additional sales of an extra innings package.

Still unknown is who will manage the network and the content of non-baseball game programming. Brosnan said that programming already aired on the Internet by would be closely examined for its viability of use on the new network.

Brosnan also said that the 26-week game package would be non-exclusive and used in combination with what is being aired in local markets by the individual teams on those Saturday nights.