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DirectTV Preps MLB Channel

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NEW YORK Major League Baseball and DirecTV have agreed to a seven-year deal that includes the launch of the MLB Channel as part of DirecTV's basic package.

Under the terms of the deal, DirecTV will be a minority partner in the MLB Channel, and will work with MLB to develop the network, which will launch in 2009.

The deal is reportedly costing DirecTV about $700 million for the seven years.

The new MLB Channel will be a 24-hour-a-day, seven-day-a-week network, and air year-round.

MLB said DirecTV's commitment to carry the MLB Channel as a basic service, reaching more than 15 million homes, was a major factor in doing the deal.

The pact also renews the carriage rights to the MLB Extra Innings subscription package of out-of-market games.

MLB and DirecTV agreed to include a provision that allows MLB Extra Innings to be offered to the other incumbents, In Demand and Dish Network, at "consistent rates and carriage requirements." Both In Demand and Dish have until the start of the baseball season to conclude a new deal. If neither exercises the option to renew, the MLB Extra Innings package will be exclusive to DirecTV. All out-of-market games will also continue to be available on MLB.com.

"This deal complements our deals with Fox, Turner and ESPN for network game coverage and furthers MLB's initiative to continue to enhance fans' viewing experience and reinvigorate our telecasts with unique and innovative features," said Bob DuPuy, MLB president.

Chase Carey, president and CEO of DirecTV, pledged "to invest millions of dollars" to offer more games in high definition and apply "DirecTV's award-winning technology to MLB Extra Innings broadcasts on an unprecedented scale."

DirecTV has had a 10-year relationship with MLB.