Cable execs at press time were toiling furiously to prevent MLB’s out-of-market package from going exclusively to DirecTV (see story below), but if they strike out, how might the industry best assuage disgruntled fans? One effective way is to expand baseball-related HD programming, even if most of this content is derived locally from RSNs. "DirecTV is obviously trying to be the king of sports programming, and a large part of that is providing more HD content to differentiate," said YES Network COO Ray Hopkins. "It is incumbent upon cable operators to continue to invest in HD offerings." Of course, Hopkins isn’t exactly unbiased. His YES Net launched a standalone HD channel on Sun (Apr 1), with Cablevision, Time Warner Cable, Comcast and others agreeing to carry it. But the numbers do support cable valuing HD offerings—98% of YES’ sub universe will have access to the new offering, according to Hopkins. That’s a stark contrast to 5 years ago when YES was fighting for standard def carriage. "When we did our first deal with DirecTV, everyone in the marketplace realized the power of HD programming. It certainly helped clear the path," said Hopkins. RSNs around the country confirm that fans’ clamoring for HD content continues to intensify. "Local viewers really want that nuance inherent to HD programming," said FSN evp, production Doug Sellers. To this end, FSN has nearly doubled the number of HD baseball games it will telecast this year across its 18 RSNs, which collectively hold exclusive cable/satellite rights to 16 MLB teams. Comcast SportsNet will present more than 200 MLB games in HD this year and continues to ramp up its HD telecast of away games in local markets.