In Demand Pitches Free Preview for MLB

For Major League Baseball fans, opening day is traditionally a rite of spring. But In Demand will throw out its first digital-cable pitch for the national pastime on July 1.

That's the date when the pay-per-view aggregator plans to launch the half-season version of its recently acquired "MLB Extra Innings" out-of-market sports package. Those operators with the bandwidth to devote up to eight channels per night to games are being encouraged to run a free preview of the service from July 1 to July 8.

"We worked very hard to get this package done," said senior vice president of marketing Gavin Harvey. "We missed the first part of the season, but we thought it was too big to pass up until next year."

In Demand plans to support the free preview with its first national radio buys, as well as targeted print ads in USA Today Baseball Weekly. In Demand will use local ad avails during the free previews to pitch a toll-free number that cable subscribers can call to order the package.

MLB Extra Innings is expected to be available in nearly 6 million digital-cable households. Direct-broadcast satellite provider DirecTV Inc. also carries the package.

Harvey conceded that MLB Extra Innings would appeal to a very limited audience of hard-core baseball fans. But beyond the revenue they generate, sports packages "let the customer know they don't have to go elsewhere to get the sports they want," he added.

The half-season package is available to cable customers for $109. A combination package — which includes the last four weeks of 2001, plus all of the 2002 season — will be offered for $159 in a promotion slated to start in September.