MLB Network is an American television sports channel dedicated to baseball. It is primarily owned by Major League Baseball, with television providers AT&T, Comcast (through its NBC Sports Group), Charter Communications and Cox Communications having minority ownership.
The channel's headquarters and studios are located in the Secaucus, New Jersey facility which formerly housed MSNBC's studios. MLB Network's studios also house NHL Network with some studio sharing, which came under the management of MLB Advanced Media in mid-2015 and transferred most operations from the network's former Toronto home base.
Tony Petitti, former executive producer of CBS Sports, was named the network's first president. Petitti served as MLB Network's president until December 2014 when he was appointed as Chief Operating Officer of Major League Baseball. Rob McGlarry, who worked as Senior and later Executive Vice-president of Business Affairs at MLB Network since 2009, was named the network's second President.
As of February 2015, MLB Network is available to approximately 69,991,000 television households (60.1% of cable, satellite, and telco customers) in the United States.
Major League Baseball became the fourth major North American professional sports league to launch its own 24-hour cable network. NBA TV dates back to 1999, the NHL Network to 2001 (though not in the United States until 2007), and the NFL Network to 2003. However, MLB Network is carried in the most households of these four networks, as it is available on all of the top ten video operators in the United States.
MLB Network soft-launched on December 16, 2008 with a rolling automated loop of archival programming and promotions for the network for cable systems that carried the network's transmissions leading up to the January 1 launch. The channel fully launched at 6 PM EST with the premiere of Hot Stove.
In April 2012, MLB Network's standard definition feed shifted to a 16:9 letterbox format. Both of the network's SD and HD feeds now show the same format.
On April 4, 2016, MLB Network debuted a new on-air graphics package optimized for the 16:9 format, replacing the previous on-air look used since the network's New Year's Day 2009 launch.
The network has signed contracts with numerous cable and satellite carriers, including DirecTV, Dish Network, Verizon Fios, Cablevision, Charter, Comcast, Cox Communications, Time Warner Cable, Bright House Networks, and AT&T Uverse. In a deal that was pioneered by other sports league owned channels, MLB tied carriage of the MLB Network to the ability to carry the popular out of market MLB Extra Innings package. In return, cable and satellite providers were offered a minority share of the new network.
On March 26, 2010, it was announced that satellite radio station MLB Home Plate will be rebranded to MLB Network Radio which will simulcast some MLB Network programs such as MLB Tonight and Hot Stove. The switchover began on April 4, the first day of the 2010 MLB season.
At launch, no announcement was made about MLB Network availability in Canada, home of the Toronto Blue Jays. Network officials had been in contact with Blue Jays owner Rogers Communications (owner of Rogers Cable, the largest cable provider in Canada) about making MLB Network available in Canada, but emphasized prior to the channel's launch that a deal was not imminent.
In August 2008, Rogers secured Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) approval for a Canadian digital channel tentatively called "Baseball TV". This license could have been used to launch a localized version of MLB Network with domestic advertising and additional Canadian content, along the lines of NBA TV Canada, which is owned by the parent company of the Toronto Raptors but uses much of the content of the league's U.S. channel NBA TV. It was reported initially that Rogers intended to pursue this approach to bring MLB Network to Canada. However, the licence was issued on the condition the channel launch by August 2011, which did not occur.
Rogers ultimately agreed to sponsor MLB Network's request to be added to the CRTC's list of approved foreign television services, which would permit Canadian cable and satellite providers to import the American feed, as has occurred previously with similar niche-sports services such as Big Ten Network, NFL Network and Golf Channel. The application was published for public comment on June 13, 2012 and was approved on November 21, 2012. In the interim, the Rogers-owned Sportsnet One aired selected programs from MLB Network, including Quick Pitch and Intentional Talk.
MLB Network was added to Rogers Cable systems in Ontario on January 8, 2014, in both standard and high definition. On June 3, 2015, SaskTel announced that it would begin carrying MLB Network. As of 2017, it is also available on MTS and Vidéotron.
On March 23rd, 2017, MLB Network launched on Bell Fibe TV and Bell TV.
Shaw Cable, the dominant carrier in Western Canada, does not offer MLB Network.
High definition and 4K
The 720p high definition simulcast of MLB Network launched simultaneously to the regular channel. After much discussion, MLB Network decided to use the 720p format instead of 1080-line-interlace because it believes 720p shows the motion of baseball more accurately and will degrade less when recompressed by cable operators to save bandwidth (most of the regional Fox Sports Networks use the same format). As Mark Haden (VP of engineering and IT of MLB Network) says: "That's our best shot of maintaining quality to viewers." All studio programs and original shows are shot in HD, as well as all self-produced games such as those of the 2009 World Baseball Classic and Thursday Night Baseball, as well as simulcasted locally produced games. The network also remastered 30 World Series films in high definition.
On April 14, 2016, it was announced that 25 MLB Network Showcase games will be broadcast in 4K ultra-high definition exclusively on DirecTV in the 2016 season, beginning April 15.
Live game coverage
MLB Network airs several live games a week. These games are blacked out in the participating markets of the two teams (unless listed otherwise). Blacked out markets receive an alternate game or pre-taped programming.
- MLB Network Showcase: MLB Network's weekly presentation of self-produced non-exclusive games on Tuesday, Thursday or Friday nights. Bob Costas, Matt Vasgersian, and occasionally Paul Severino do play-by-play. Normally, Jim Kaat or John Smoltz provide color commentary with Al Leiter, Joe Magrane, Dan Plesac, Sean Casey, Harold Reynolds or Bill Ripken also providing occasional color commentary. Tom Verducci, Ken Rosenthal, Jon Paul Morosi or Sam Ryan handle on-field reporting.
- Other night games: MLB Network airs games on Tuesday, Friday and Saturday nights, simulcast from one team's local TV broadcaster. On Tuesday nights, MLB Network features doubleheader coverage, with an early East Coast game followed by a later West Coast one.
- MLB Matinee: MLB Network airs a series of weekday afternoon games throughout the regular season. As with night games, these matinee games feature simulcasts of one team's local telecast.
- Minor League Baseball: MLB Network will occasionally pick up Minor League Baseball games being broadcast by its cable TV partners. This has included Triple-A and Double-A games along with some minor leagues' All-Star games.
In 2012, MLB Network aired its first ever postseason telecasts. The first telecast took place on October 7 and featured the Detroit Tigers hosting the Oakland Athletics at Comerica Park in Detroit for game two of the 2012 ALDS. Matt Vasgersian called the game alongside analyst Jim Kaat. The second telecast took place on October 10 and featured the Washington Nationals hosting the St. Louis Cardinals at Nationals Park in Washington, D.C. for game three of the 2012 NLDS; this was the Nationals first home postseason game since moving to Washington, D.C. at the start of the 2005 season. Bob Costas provided the play-by-play commentary alongside analyst Jim Kaat.
International live game coverage self-produced by MLB Network includes the World Baseball Classic and the Caribbean Series. The 2014 Sydney Cricket Ground opening series from Sydney between the Dodgers and Diamondbacks was a co-production between MLB Network and ESPN Australia, along with the Nine Network/GEM, which held the home rights for the broadcasts. Starting 2015 season, MLB Network produces MLB International coverage of the MLB All-Star Game and the World Series.
The channel also airs live and tape delayed Spring training games, simulcasted from one of the team's local TV rights holder's feed, or if not available, the spring training complex's internal scoreboard video feed with team radio network audio. These games are also subject to local blackouts.
The channel also carries live development league games, and occasionally live college games. In August 2009, they aired youth baseball championships, including the RBI World Series and the Cal Ripken World Series. It also airs some games of the Arizona Fall League including the All Star game and the championship.
Fox Saturday Baseball pre-game show
In 2012, MLB Network took over the pre-game production responsibilities for the MLB on Fox package, producing Fox Saturday Baseball and postseason pre-game shows from Secaucus and on-location. The show featured Matt Vasgersian or Greg Amsinger and two analysts from a rotating roster of MLB Network's personalities (Eric Byrnes, Kevin Millar, Dan Plesac, Harold Reynolds, Bill Ripken, or Mitch Williams). The show used Fox's graphics and theme songs. Fox took back control of the pregame show in 2014 when the "Game of the Week" package was eliminated.
MLB Network produces promos for its current MLB Network original series which air on regular basis as well as for films that MLB Network broadcast. MLB Network also airs promos for special events that it airs and different games that it broadcast live.
- MLB Tonight: The signature show of MLB Network, which debuted at the start of 2009 Spring Training in a 60-minute format; as of 2011, the show airs seven days a week during the regular season, and is now a full-year program. The show has updates, highlights, news, and analysis. The original plan was also to feature exclusive live look-ins using their own permanent HD cameras with shots not available on any of the channels covering the game; however, MLBN has decided to use "ballpark cam" only before and after games. Live cut-ins simulcast from the stations/networks covering the games. In 2011, MLB Tonight won a Sports Emmy Award for Outstanding Studio Show - Daily.
- Hot Stove: Until 2012, Hot Stove was a re-branded version of MLB Tonight for the winter, generally airing at the same times from the same set but with different graphics. Like MLB Tonight, it was the signature program on MLB Network from November until March during the major league off-season, featuring news reports and analysis of all offseason moves as teams prepare for the upcoming season. It gets its name from the baseball term Hot stove league. On November 12, 2012, Hot Stove became a live weekday morning show hosted by Matt Vasgersian and Harold Reynolds, airing at 9:00 AM ET and repeated during the day. MLB Tonight continued as before, under that name, in its customary time slot (when not moved for awards presentations or special programs).
- Quick Pitch: A 60-minute daily fast-paced show of highlights from that day's games and currently hosted by Heidi Watney. Premiered April 12, 2009. Currently, it airs live at the conclusion of MLB Tonight or the last live game of the night and then repeats throughout the overnight and morning hours until 10 AM ET.
- MLB Now: The series premiered April 1, 2013 and new episodes air Monday thru Friday on MLB Network. Season one had Brian Kenny and Harold Reynolds debating about baseball's daily events and news with Reynolds taking the "traditional" perspective and Kenny using sabermetrics to approach each topic. The debate was moderated by Kristina Fitzpatrick. The season one finale aired in early October. On February 26, 2014 host Brian Kenny announced via Twitter that MLB Now had been renewed for a second season to premiere in April 2014. Season two saw some changes as Reynolds and Fitzpatrick exited the show which now centers around Kenny and three other guests that include one MLB on-air personality and two former or current players, managers, general managers, journalists, reporters, or analysts. The format is similar but Kenny acts as moderator and also debates with the guests.
- The Rundown: A two-hour show that premiered in 2011, hosted by Kelly Nash and Matt Yallof, provides looks at day games in progress, batting practice, recaps of the previous day's action and previews of the upcoming contests. In 2012, The Rundown expanded to three hours.
- Intentional Talk: Another show that premiered in 2011, using the traditional sports talk radio format hosted by Chris Rose and Kevin Millar about the events of the day and include interviews with players and managers. Will air an additional hour on ESPN2 daily beginning May 1, 2017.
- High Heat: The series premiered March 31, 2014 and is hosted by Chris Russo. It airs Monday-Friday year-round.
- Clubhouse Confidential: Premiered in November 2011, starring Brian Kenny, uses sabermetrics to analyze and discuss daily baseball news. It is premiered as its own 30-minute show throughout the offseason, however there are some segments on MLB Tonight throughout the course of the season.
- MLB Central, a 2-hour news magazine-style show that debuted on April 6, 2015 with hosts Matt Vasgersian, Mark DeRosa and Lauren Shehadi.
- All Time Games: Classic baseball games, shown in their original televised form. The premiere episode on January 1 was a kinescope of NBC's coverage of Game 5 of the 1956 World Series in which Don Larsen hurled the Fall Classic's only perfect game, framed by a sit-down interview with Larsen and Yogi Berra, who caught the game, by Bob Costas, and included all original Gillette advertisements from the NBC coverage.
- 30 Clubs in 30 Days: In February, the network embarked on a month-long tour of spring training camps with John Hart as host, coming from a different facility each day.
- 30 Clubs, 30 Report Cards: A sequel to 30 Teams in 30 Days, in July, host John Hart looks back at predictions made during the spring and grades each team's performance thus far through the season.
- 30 Clubs, 30 Recaps: The offseason version of the above which airs during Hot Stove, premiered December 7, 2009, recaps each team's season and looks ahead to next season.
- 30 Games, 30 Clubs, 30 Days: In 2010 and 2011, MLB Network aired 30 live regular season games, featuring all 30 teams, during the month of April.
- Diamond Demos: An instructional show featuring an expert in a certain aspect of baseball. Episodes have included infielding with Ozzie Smith, catching with Joe Girardi, outfielding with Torii Hunter, pitching with Jeff Brantley, and coaching with Buck Showalter. Premiered April 6.
- October Classics is re-airings of World Series in their entirety. Each week a different series has been featured.
- Prime 9: A series devoted to the topic of the nine greatest in anything involved with baseball. The series in run in marathons on holiday's such as Thanksgiving and Christmas.
- Studio 42 with Bob Costas is an interview show with prominent baseball figures. The premiere episode on February 5 was with Joe Torre about his new tell-all book The Yankee Years, which has been regarded as controversial among Yankees players, especially Alex Rodriguez. Another famous episode featured an interview with Frick Award-winning announcer Ernie Harwell, his last television appearance before his death six months later.
- Front Burner: The channel's insiders have a round table discussion about the off-season, and take questions and comments from viewers via phone calls, emails, Facebook and Twitter.
- Baseball IQ: A game show hosted by Matt Vasgersian in which two participants answer baseball trivia for a chance to win up to $45,000 for charity.
- World Baseball Classic Tonight: A show similar to MLB Tonight, World Baseball Classic Tonight features highlights, analysis and special reports on the tournament.
- Inside MLB: The series premiered November 11, 2013 and new episodes aired Mondays at 10 pm on MLB Network until January 2014.
- Bleacher Features: The network's presentation of baseball-themed feature films.
- Baseball's Seasons: A documentary series set against the events of a certain baseball season.
- Inside the Moments: A series premiering January 2 that features memorable moments and the stories behind them. The first five episodes are: "Aura of the Home Run", "Icons of the Game", "Unforgettable Feats", "Magic on the Mound" and "Fall Classic Finales". This show was originally produced by ESPN during the 2002 season as part of a promotion sponsored by MasterCard in which fans voted to determine the best moment in MLB history.
- Pride and Perseverance: The Story of the Negro Leagues: A one-hour special narrated by Hall of Famer Dave Winfield on the history of Negro League Baseball prior to Jackie Robinson's debut on April 15, 1947.
- Rising Sons: A documentary on how Japanese players have adjusted to life in America.
- We Are Young, a story about Dmitri Young, Delmon Young, and their father, Larry Young.
- Josh Hamilton: Resurrecting the Dream: chronicles the life of Josh Hamilton.
- The Pen: followed the bullpen of the 2009 Philadelphia Phillies.
- The Club: followed the 2010 Chicago White Sox.
- MLB Network Presents: A series of hour long films focusing on a subject in baseball, such as a former player or an event or team in baseball history.
- Baseball: A Film by Ken Burns: The Emmy Award-winning documentary mini-series, which originally aired on PBS in 1994, was aired on MLB Network in 2009.
- Cathedrals of the Game: takes viewers on tours of MLB stadiums and explores the history of the team and city (originally produced by iNHD in 2005).
MLB Strike Zone
Strike Zone logo used in 2017
MLB Strike Zone is a channel that launched on April 10, 2012 that allows viewers to see every game across MLB, with up-to-the-minute highlights, and live look-ins and updates, without commercials, in a similar format to NFL RedZone. The channel currently airs on Tuesday and Friday nights during the regular season. Matt Yallof is the current host of the show, which usually lasts about three hours. One criticism of the show is that west coast games often get sparse coverage due to the time zone difference.
The Secaucus-based studios have two main sets, both named after famous players. "Studio 3", named in honor of Babe Ruth, serves as the home for all studio programs, while "Studio 42", honoring Jackie Robinson, is a half-scale baseball field where demonstrations by the network's analysts take place, 'Intentional Talk', and 'MLB Now' is presented, along with interview programs where an audience is needed for atmosphere. Studio 42 is also the home of the early rounds of the Major League Baseball Draft. The studio includes seating for over 125 people, along with elements such as a functioning manual scoreboard and a standings wall for each league and division.
With the launch of Intentional Talk in 2011, the hosts Chris Rose and Kevin Millar are not always available in the MLB Network studios. When this occurs, the show is usually shown as a split screen in which Chris Rose is at his house in Los Angeles, CA and Kevin hosts from his house in Austin, TX also known as "Studio 1-5" for Millar's uniform number.
On November 12, 2012, MLB Network introduced a third set, "Studio K", for the new daily morning offseason show, Hot Stove and guests analysts/insiders on 'High Heat'. During the premiere episode, hosts Matt Vasgersian and Harold Reynolds said that the studio was constructed from the building's mail room, explaining its small size.
In 2015, the network introduced a new set, "Studio 21", named in honor of Roberto Clemente.
The network had planned to launch permanent studios from a new tower in Manhattan's Harlem neighborhood by 2011. However, because of the 2008 financial crisis, the building project was scaled back and later canceled in late November 2008.
With the August 2015 announcement that MLB Advanced Media would take over the digital properties of the National Hockey League, it was announced that NHL Network would relocate its studios and operations to the facilities of MLB Network. The channel temporarily originated its studio programming from Studio K and Studio 21, until the completion of a dedicated studio in April 2016. In honor of the NHL Stadium Series playing at the Colorado Rockies' Coors Field, a scale hockey rink was built on Studio 42 in February 2016 for cross-promotional appearances on NHL Network and MLB Network.
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