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It is all but official :
Extra Innings Package and 24-Hour Channel Headed Exclusively to DirecTV
By RICHARD SANDOMIR
Major League Baseball is close to announcing a deal that will place its Extra Innings package of out-of-market games exclusively on DirecTV, which will also become the only carrier of a long-planned 24-hour baseball channel.
Extra Innings has been available to 75 million cable households and the two satellite services, DirecTV and the Dish Network. But the new agreement will take it off cable and Dish because DirecTV has agreed to pay $700 million over seven years, according to three executives briefed on the details of the contract but not authorized to speak about them publicly.
InDemand, which has distributed Extra Innings to the cable television industry since 2002, made an estimated $70 million bid to renew its rights, more than triple what it has been paying. Part of its offer included the right to carry the new baseball channel, but not exclusively.
The baseball channel is scheduled to start in 2009.
M.L.B., DirecTV and InDemand officials declined to comment.
DirecTV is also the exclusive outlet for the N.F.L.'s Sunday Ticket package, for which it pays $700 million annually. Sunday Ticket has about 2 million subscribers; Extra Innings about 750,000, according to The Sports Business Journal.
Extra Innings lets subscribers, for a fee, watch about 60 games a week from other local markets except their own.
The only other way that fans without DirecTV will be able to see Extra Innings will be on MLB.com's mlb.tv service, but they must have high-speed broadband service. About 28 million homes have high-speed service, less than half the number of cable homes in the country. The picture quality of streamed games is not as good as what is available on cable or satellite.
DirecTV is available to about 15 million subscribers.
Last month, Senator Arlen Specter, Republican of Pennsylvania, who was then the head of the Senate Judiciary Committee, cited DirecTV's exclusivity with Sunday Ticket as a reason to strip the N.F.L. of an antitrust exemption to negotiate all TV contracts for its teams. Comcast, which has complained that it cannot carry Sunday Ticket, is a Philadelphia-based company.