- NEW YORK, NY, June 27, 2008 - Award-winning producer John Fitzgerald has pulled his new baseball TV series off the air, following a dispute with New York Mets' flagship network, SportsNet New York (SNY).
"Playing for Peanuts" - a docu-reality series about minor league baseball - has been airing since May 11 on regional sports networks in nine markets. The series has averaged over 200,000 viewers per week, nationally.
"It's unfortunate, but the show was not being promoted at all in New York," says Fitzgerald. "Playing for Peanuts is a show that appeals to baseball fans, regardless of geography or team affiliation," explains Fitzgerald. "But one of the main characters in the show is former New York Mets second baseman Wally Backman. I felt very strongly that the flagship network of the Mets should support the show with some promotion, given its built-in connection with the history of the franchise."
Over the course of seven weeks, SNY did not air a single commercial for the show and did not allow broadcasters to mention the show during Mets games, even though Mets broadcaster Ron Darling actually appears in the show. Fitzgerald also offered to pay to have the series mentioned during Mets telecasts.
"I finally offered to pay for the show to be mentioned during Mets games," explains Fitzgerald. "They told me the show could be mentioned at a cost of $5,500 per mention. Obviously, that was out of my budget range and they knew it."
"Playing for Peanuts" had been aired under a "time barter agreement" since May. Time barter agreements stipulate that a producer is given free airtime in exchange for providing programming for the network. The agreement remained unsigned for seven weeks because of the disagreement about promotion. Although barter shows are typically not promoted by networks, "Playing for Peanuts" was being promoted in most other regions as part of the agreement.
"We've been operating without a signed agreement for seven weeks and I've maintained all along that the show needs to be promoted in New York," continues Fitzgerald. "SNY refused to promote the show even though it is being promoted in other cities as part of the same agreement. I tried to compromise on the level of promotion and I never got anywhere with it. Regardless of SNY's motivations, I can't give the show away for free in New York if SNY won't promote it. It isn't fair to the show, the show's investors or the production crew - many of whom worked for deferred payment and are still waiting for the show to turn a profit."
Although the future of "Playing for Peanuts" is uncertain, Fitzgerald is hopeful that the show will find a new network and a sponsor.
"The story is timeless - it is kind of like a real-life 'Bull Durham,'" says Fitzgerald. "There are so many weird twists and turns and so many likeable people who were involved in the story. This show will be seen and this story will be told - unfortunately, I have no idea how that will happen at this point."
About Playing for Peanuts
"Playing for Peanuts," follows the South Georgia Peanuts in the independent South Coast League during the 2007 season. It features regular appearances by former MLB players Wally Backman and Cecil Fielder. It also features appearances by former MLB players Ron Darling and Phil Plantier and current Arizona Diamondbacks first baseman Conor Jackson. Following a tumultuous season - one that included ejections, suspensions, a bench clearing brawl, a managerial firing, drug testing controversies and, ultimately, a championship - the league and the team ceased operations.
For more information, visit http://www.PlayingforPeanuts.com
About John Fitzgerald
John Fitzgerald produced and directed "The Emerald Diamond" - a documentary about the Irish National Baseball Team. The film was released in 2006, screened theatrically in 25 US cities and won the Critic's Choice Award at the Baseball Hall of Fame Film Festival. "The Emerald Diamond" has been seen on Sportsnet Chicago, SNY and the America One Network.
For more information on "The Emerald Diamond," visit http://www.IrishBaseballMovie.com
Playing for Peanuts is a new TV series about minor league baseball. For further information, visit http://www.PlayingforPeanuts.com or call 914-316-2056---
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