On January 1, Major League Baseball launches MLB Network.
And everyone's on board in terms of carriers, mainly because they all are getting a piece of the pie.
Why this has taken so long is beyond me. As other venues took ownership as the best place to go to get baseball news, MLB sat on its hands and let it happen.
But some intriguing things have been happening lately.
MLB.com and its team sites have long been a bastion for some of the most banal baseball news on these series of tubes. Whether it was plodding through week-old stories looking to bore the reader to death or articles that attempt to put a sunny spin on...well...everything, it became like reading Tony Robbins on crack. There was just so much 'pushing the company line'.
But lately, the site's been efforting to break some stories and letting it all hang out.
And the network will be the largest launch in cable television history with a startup audience of 50 million by having the cable companies own a minority stake in the network if they carry the channel and not bury it in the wasteland that is the sports package. With an initial value estimated at $1 billion, the network should crap money for all parties involved.
An aside here. This brings up the question of the Big Ten Network and its bumblefuck of a launch last year. I still think in my completely unqualified opinion that the Big Ten did what they had to do by fighting for long-term positioning instead of a wide initial launch. Being a regional network with largely regional appeal, they were in no position to offer up minority stakes when so much in terms of future revenue was largely unknown.
But the seeming smoothness of the launch of MLB Network certainly pricks up the ears. Different beasts, of course, but cripes! Now the bigger problem is the fact that actually seeing your favorite Big Ten basketball team play has become an issue. How many Hawkeye games have been on? Two? Three?
Makes me swoon for Raycom.
Anyway. Looks like the Rich Eisen of the MLB Network will be Matt Vasgersian with Harold Reynolds, Al Leiter and Joe Magrane serving as analysts.
The flagship will be MLB Tonight, a show starting at 5pm and running until the last game of the night is finished. During the off-season, Hot Stove will air at 6pm every night. No word yet on channel numbers but DirecTv recently reconfigured channels, moving the NHL Network to the low 200s near the NFL Network so one would suspect MLB Network will also premiere in the same slot.
Who knows if it will be worth the time. But if my 2009 baseball season can be John Kruk-free, it will be worth more than I can ever ask for.