Selig chastises In Demand, EchoStar

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NEW YORK -- Major League Baseball commissioner Bud Selig continued the war of words against In Demand and EchoStar over the Extra Innings premium package, saying he hoped there would be time for an agreement but that both companies knew what it would take to do it.

Appearing in the last session of the World Congress of Sports at the Pierre Hotel in Manhattan and receiving the Executive of the Year Award, Selig said he didn't know if In Demand and EchoStar would step up to the plate by the MLB-imposed deadline of March 31. EchoStar and In Demand, which does the buying for MSO giants Comcast, Time Warner Cable and Cox, have to match the financial terms and distribution guarantees for the Baseball Channel that DirecTV already has agreed upon or face the next seven years with DirecTV having it as an exclusive.

"They know what they have to do to get the package, so the ball's in their court," Selig said.

In an interview following his appearance, Selig said MLB had a "very fair (negotiating) process for five months" that DirecTV ultimately won. He said In Demand and EchoStar knew what they needed to do to satisfy MLB.

"I'm hoping that we can come to some kind of agreement," Selig said.

MLB dismissed In Demand's offer Wednesday and hit back hard, saying it didn't want to negotiate in the press. MLB's lead negotiator, Tim Brosnan, reiterated that Thursday regarding In Demand. But he said negotiations were continuing with EchoStar.

"We're discussing it with them privately," Brosnan said.

Selig said MLB was sensitive to the concerns expressed by fans and lawmakers, saying that the league had given to the end of the month to participate.

"That's fair," he said.

On other topics, Selig said he was committed to retiring as commissioner when his current contract runs out in 2009. He also said MLB is having talks with Time Warner and Liberty over the sale of the Atlanta Braves franchise, which Time Warner wants to sell to Liberty. He praised the Braves' management and said he wanted to preserve that day-to-day control.

On the possible sale of the Chicago Cubs, which is owned by media conglomerate Tribune Co., Selig said he hadn't heard anything about that yet but that he has kept in touch with Tribune Co. management.

"At this moment, they insist the team is not for sale," Selig said.

Selig said any club that was for sale or could potentially change ownership would have to notify MLB immediately, even if it was a situation where the entire company -- Tribune's newspaper and broadcasting assets as well -- was to be sold.

"They'd have to figure it out," Selig said of notification. "It's a very complicated situation."
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