By Staff -- Broadcasting & Cable, 3/4/2007 7:00:00 PM
Baseball fans are genetically programmed to complain about how baseball doesn't care about the little guy. (In other words, them.) Now, Major League Baseball is in trouble with fans, Congress and the FCC. That's because it hopes to make a $700 million deal with DirecTV so that the satellite provider would get exclusive rights to carry baseball's Extra Innings package.
Extra Innings lets a fan watch most of the out-of-market games being played every day. If, say, you were a Minneapolis native now living in Los Angeles, subscribing to Extra Innings would enable you to watch practically every Minnesota Twins game.
Extra Innings is now available through the Internet, on many cable systems, and on EchoStar's Dish and DirecTV. But if DirecTV gets the exclusive deal, fans would either have to get it via the Internet or switch to DirecTV. The deal wouldn't hurt folks in a team's hometown. They'd see games just as they always did.
The deal riles some others. One irate Chicago Cubs rooter who got Exta Innings from Dish wrote to CBS Sportline.com, explaining, “Now I have to decide if I want to go through the hassle of switching to DirecTV to see my Cubbies. I fear, in the end, my desire to see the Cubs will win over common sense and I'll switch.”
To which we say, Great! That's just competition. The DBS suppliers are competing against each other, against cable operators and telcos. DirecTV is simply trying to create an offer some customers can't live without. It's how business works.
Last year, about 600,000 people subscribed to Extra Innings. (Big deal. That's as many as visit the Frederick Meijer Garden and Sculpture Park in Grand Rapids, Mich., every year.)
So, in the big scheme of things, Extra Innings shouldn't be a problem big enough to need the attention of 435 Representatives, 100 Senators or even five FCC commissioners.
But, among others, Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.) has asked the FCC to examine the deal, and FCC Chairman Kevin Martin says the agency will get right on it. Rep. Ed Markey (D-Mass.), who has a bobblehead of himself in a Boston Red Sox uniform, told B&C, “I'm very, very interested in the issue, and that's all I will say.” Not quite. He added, “I do subscribe to the MLB package on Comcast.”
Extra Innings would have the potential of reaching more fans if they left things as they are. But, practically, we think MLB and DirecTV should be free to make the deal. And as an alternative, we suggest that the disappointed Cubs fan consider tuning into ESPN's Baseball Tonight on a more regular basis.
I just wanted to point out that there are also many previous EI subscribers that cannot switch to DirecTv due to contracts. I signed up with Dish Network last year specifically to get EI (Dish Network is the only satellite provider in our area that also provides the local networks). Even if I wanted to switch, I am locked into a contract through this season. I wish MLB would have at least gave us a "heads up" and not dropped this on us right before the season.
Joe Nielsen - 3/6/2007 7:01:00 PM EST
While in theory the agreement bewteen Direc TV and MLB is good for business it is not good for customers on the technical end. My in laws (specifically my Father in law live down in Florida in a Condominium complex) The problem is while the condo association allows you to put a dish, he is at a loss due to the fact that he can not have satellite tv since the trees block the satellite signals. He is one of those transplanted retired New Yorkers and he enjoys watching the yankees on tv. IF the deal does go through he will not be able to due to technical reasons. Now, I will tell you that my father in law is not the only one but there are others who can not get Satellite TV and DirectTV knows this. This is not what I would call fair and I believe that the deal ultimately will hurt MLB in the short term
Mike Callahan - 3/5/2007 7:51:00 PM EST
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