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Fox Sports Nabs Mariners Deal

In a major sports-programming move, Fox Sports Northwest and baseball's Seattle Mariners have reached a pact that gives the regional sports service television rights to 140 Mariners games.

The multiyear deal-which published reports pegged at more than $200 million-makes cable the exclusive distribution outlet for the popular baseball club. However, Fox Sports Northwest may sell several games to a local broadcast outlet, network general manager Clayton Packard said.

"The deal is very important for us," Packard said. "The games are solid programming for us and are great lead-in programming for our national sports-news show, as well as our regional sports report show."

The number of games that Fox Sports Northwest will allot to broadcasters, if any, remains unclear.

Fox Sports Northwest has shared rights with local broadcasters KIRO-TV and KSTW-TV for the past several years. Under that arrangement, the cable network carried only 63 Mariners games.

Should Fox Sports Northwest sell some of its games to a broadcaster, Packard said, it's possible the network could still keep as many as 100 of the 140 games.

"We're analyzing what kind of over-the-air distribution deal we'll have," Packard said.

Now that the Mariners and the National Basketball Association's Seattle Supersonics are under its wing, Packard said, the NBA's Portland Trailblazers are the only major professional team in the region whose rights are still outstanding. For years, that team has offered its home games on a pay-per-view basis.

Packard said the network is hopeful it can secure those rights, but noted that the two parties are not currently involved in any formal negotiations.

R. Thomas Umstead serves as senior content producer, programming for Multichannel News, Broadcasting + Cable and Next TV. During his more than 30-year career as a print and online journalist, Umstead has written articles on a variety of subjects ranging from TV technology, marketing and sports production to content distribution and development. He has provided expert commentary on television issues and trends for such TV, print, radio and streaming outlets as Fox News, CNBC, the Today show, USA Today, The New York Times and National Public Radio. Umstead has also filmed, produced and edited more than 100 original video interviews, profiles and news reports featuring key cable television executives as well as entertainers and celebrity personalities.