SECAUCUS, NJ: Major League Baseball's PR team geared up for the January 1 launch of its own cable channel with an assertive media relations effort. The MLB Network was expected to be available in approximately 50 million cable and satellite homes, at 6pm EST on New Year's Day. Some reports referred to it as the largest debut of a network in cable television history.
The network will feature original shows, classic games, and commentary, like Hot Stove Live, the network's premiere program.
The team focused most of its efforts on announcing the network through key media, said Matt Bourne, VP of business PR for MLB.
“We're launching during the offseason, [so] we've been reiterating that this is the largest launch in cable television history,” Bourne said. “We're releasing news items every day because [we're] launching at a time when a lot of people are out with the holidays.”
The team planned to issue press releases every day during the 10 days preceding the debut, disclosing new information about it, including the names of on-air talent, such as former MLB pitcher Mitch Williams. Media outreach has included general interest, sports, and media trade publications, as well as online outreach.
A countdown clock appeared on the network's Web site, which was launched in mid-December. Along with a Facebook page, the network is reaching out to the “hardcore” online baseball community of fans, who are “rabid in terms of info,” with a steady stream of announcements and some tip-offs to bloggers prior to official releases, Bourne added.
A second phase of PR will coincide with the onset of spring training, and “people are really getting into baseball even more,” Bourne said.
“We plan on making on-air talent widely available in the lead-up to the start of [baseball] season to both promote the network and offer their analysis and expertise with a variety of media,” Bourne noted.
He says the network's launch did not use outside support, and is not actively seeking out an agency.