Sports Package: Major League Baseball Cuts 2 Online Deals home pageOn the brink of a season where major story lines changed over the weekend, Major League Baseball has reached separate agreements aimed at boosting the number of subscribers willing to pay for access to the hundreds of live games it streams online.

In essence, both deals--one with the National Hockey League and the other with ESPN--hope to entice potential customers with a two-for-one offer. With the NHL, for just $30 more, a customer can get access to both the MLB streamed games and hundreds from the NHL. With ESPN, $20 more gives a subscriber access to popular ESPN shows that are available on the Web.

To be sure, both the NHL and ESPN want to piggyback off the appeal of the MLB. TV premium packages boost their own customer rolls. The MLB package, which will provides access to the out-of-market games, will cost $109.95 by itself this season. For $139.95, a customer gets MLB Premium for the season and a run of live hockey games (under the banner of "NHL GameCenter Live") leading up to this year's playoffs and including some Stanley Cup action. The ESPN/MLB combination at $129.95 includes the baseball games and an opportunity to become an "ESPN Insider," with a chance to watch ESPN series "Pardon the Interruption" and "Around the Horn" on the Web.



NHL COO John Collins said Major League Baseball Advanced Media--considered to be at the forefront of professional leagues' online operations--"has built a great business by engaging their audience with a best-in-breed product."

MLB Premium will cost--perhaps in reaction to the economy--$10 less by itself than 2008, when it had 500,000 customers.

In the joint MLB/NHL announcement, MLB said the coming season offers "30 clubs full of hope; Opening Day excitement; a fresh infusion of irrepressible prospects; favorite stars like Albert Pujols, Jose Reyes and Tim Lincecum ..."

Today, it may be 29 clubs--after the alleged steroid use of Yankee headliner Alex Rodriguez broke over the weekend.

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