DirecTV Viewers Say YES to Interactive Baseball

YES Interactive Application to Return to Regional Sports Network for 2008 MLB Season

Interactive TV is a home run with baseball fans, according to usage data released by regional sports network Yankees Entertainment & Sports Network on YES Interactive, an interactive application available to DirecTV subscribers that provides enhanced on-screen statistics and a ‘bonus cam” that shows a different view of New York Yankees Major League Baseball game action.

The network said 42% of households with access to YES Interactive -- available to DirecTV subscribers in YES’ footprint with late-model set-top boxes -- used it consistently throughout the 2007 baseball season. And those households typically watched Yankees games on YES 54% longer than viewers who did not access YES Interactive.

Overall usage of YES Interactive -- which YES and DirecTV first launched in July 2006 -- grew steadily throughout the 2007 baseball season. From April-September, the average number of users increased 20%, the number of times YES Interactive was used per household per month increased 84% and the amount of time spent on YES Interactive by the average user increased 184%.

YES also provided season-long usage trends on specific YES Interactive features. Traffic to the application’s out-of-town scoreboard, which lets Yankees fans check up on rivals’ games, increased by 67%. Traffic to the application’s MLB Standings feature increased by 141% -- not surprising considering the late-season push the Yankees made to qualify for the postseason and almost, but not quite, catch their archrival Boston Red Sox for the division crown.

YES will be back with the interactive application on DirecTV in 2008, chief operating officer Ray Hopkins said, and it hopes to have several advertisers for the service. Its sole YES Interactive advertiser for the 2007 season, the Joe Torre Safe at Home Foundation, is unlikely to return for obvious reasons -- Torre is now the manager of the Los Angeles Dodgers -- although Hopkins won’t confirm that.

While the YES Interactive application relies on specialized NDS Group software within the DirecTV set-tops, the video feed produced for the “bonus cam” and statistics from MLB Advanced Media could theoretically be used to create new interactive applications with YES’ cable and telco partners.

YES doesn’t currently have any deals in place, but Hopkins is hopeful of launching a second interactive-TV application in the future. He said Verizon Communications’ FiOS TV service is the most likely candidate, both because of its standardized set-top boxes and its robust bandwidth.

“ITV is talked about a lot, but you don’t see a heck of a lot of it, except for some new flavor of the month,” he added. “ITV remains by and large a back-burner issue for cable, but it’s a front-burner issue for telcos and satellite.”