With Renewals, MLB Network Hits 70M Subscribers

It was a very busy off-season for MLB Network.

Baseball’s in-house service renewed all of its expiring carriage deals with the top 10 multichannel video programming distributors and a slew of other carriers, and has broadened the base for its ad-hoc scoring and highlights network, MLB Network Strike Zone.

Launched in 2009 in some 50 million homes, MLB Network’s initial round of affiliate agreements concluded on Dec. 31. The spate of renewals with all of the major distributors and smaller players, plus the addition of 20 newcomers, including the service’s first push north of the border with Rogers Cable, grew MLB Network’s sub count to 70 million by Opening Day, a 40% jump from its first pitch five years ago.

Network officials indicated the new deals have staggered term lengths and include TV Everywhere rights for simulcasts. MLB Network will air some 150 regular-season games, plus a pair of Division Series games in the postseason.

The network declined to comment on the value of its monthly license fee. SNL Kagan estimated that figure at 23 cents per subscriber per month in 2014.

Ad-hoc channel MLB Network Strike Zone, which was rolled out during the 2012 baseball season as an added-value component for affiliates, is now carried by six of the top 10 distributors. Cox and AT&T Uverse have joined veterans Bright House Networks, DirecTV, Dish Network and Time Warner Cable.

MLB Network Strike Zone, which whizzes viewers on a trip around MLB on Tuesday and Friday nights during the regular season with up-to-the-minute highlights, live look-ins and updates, can also be accessed on systems and video platforms owned by BELD, Buckeye CableSystem, Celect Communications, Cincinnati Bell, Consolidated Communications, EPB Chattanooga, Google Fiber, ITV-3, OpenBand Multimedia, Service Electric Cable TV and Telapex.