MLB Extra Innings talks head into extra innings

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NEW YORK -- Major League Baseball over the weekend extended the deadline for negotiations on the Extra Innings package with both In Demand and Echostar.

MLB had originally given the two companies until Saturday, the day before the beginning of the regular season, to come to terms over the out-of-market package that both had carried until the end of last season. But that deadline was extended until Sunday and perhaps into Monday to try to work a deal out although it wasn't clear whether one would be forged with either Echostar, the parent company of Dish Network, or In Demand, which is the negotiating company for big MSOs Cox, Time Warner Cable and Comcast.

"Talks are still ongoing," a MLB spokeswoman said mid-afternoon Sunday. She declined to detail the talks further.

Another source said the parties hoped to wrap up a deal by Monday but that there were "no assurances."

MLB in early March had reached an exclusive deal with DirecTV worth a reported $700 million over seven years. MLB agreed to extend for three weeks a negotiating window with In Demand and EchoStar to match the DirecTV terms -- which would be signficantly less financially without an exclusive -- and commit to carrying The Baseball Channel in a similar amount of cable and satellite households when the channel launches in 2009.

DirecTV committed to carrying the network in about 15 million households on its basic tier; it also received an ownership stake.

The MLB-DirecTV deal hasn't escaped notice from Washington, where the FCC has asked for more information and lawmakers including Sen. John Kerry, D-Mass., have asked MLB and the companies to come to some sort of agreement for the good of displaced baseball fans.

Kerry got agreement last week from MLB President/COO Bob DuPuy and In Demand president Robert Jacobson for a face-to-face meeting ahead of Saturday's deadline.
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