Echostar: Extra Innings too costly

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NEW YORK -- Echostar Communications Corp. said that it still wanted to carry the Extra Innings out-of-market package from Major League Baseball on DirecTV but said it was likely to be too costly.

Echostar is the lone holdout in negotiations Thursday after In Demand late Wednesday struck an agreement in principle with MLB that would give it Extra Innings for seven years and an undisclosed equity stake in the Baseball Channel in exchange for a substantial commitment to carry the channel when it launches in 2009. DirecTV already has an agreement.

"We are not optimistic we can strike a fair deal for our customers," an Echostar spokeswoman said.

Echostar said that MLB's proposal would force Dish to pass on costs to its customer base, including those who don't subscribe to Extra Innings. Echostar claimed it was a disproportionate share in comparison to DirecTV and In Demand's owners Comcast Corp., Time Warner Cable and Cox Communications.

Wednesday's deal with cable helped squelch an outcry among baseball fans and lawmakers in Washington over whether the then-exclusive deal with DirecTV was unfair and whether it would shut out displaced fans having either cable or Dish. Both services had Extra Innings until last season but had balked at a price that, on March 8, DirecTV was willing to pay for exclusivity.
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