Kerry Wants Martin To Investigate Sports Exclusivity

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Senate Commerce Committee member John Kerry (D-Mass.) has asked FCC Chairman Kevin Martin to investigate DirecTV's "pending agreement" with Major League Baseball on an "Extra Innings" package of out-of-market baseball games.

"As you know, Extra Innings is currently available to 75 million subscribers through cable as well as DirectTV and the Dish Network," Kerry wrote to Martin. "However, if this exclusive deal is approved, only 15 million DirectTV subscribers will be able to purchase Extra Innings, leaving 50 million Americans without access to out-of-market games that they currently enjoy and a viable alternative to view them."

DirecTV already has an exclusive deal for NFL football through its Sunday Ticket package of out-of-market games, but that deal was exclusive from the beginning..

"This deal, by definition, reduces consumer choice and competition in the media market.  Fans who want to purchase Extra Innings will be forced to pay whatever DirectTV charges, and those who cannot subscribe to DirectTV, like some apartment building residents, will have no option at all," said Kerry.

Kerry was concerned not only about his hometown Boston Red Sox, but the precedent for other sports. "I am concerned that this deal, and others that may follow, will separate fans from their favorite teams and reduce competition in the sports market," he said. "I therefore request that you investigate this exclusive deal and report to Congress on its implications for consumers and recommend any changes to law or regulation that will ameliorate its negative effects."

DirecTV had no comment. 

Kerry had been expected to raise the issue at a Senate Commerce Committee FCC oversight hearing Feb. 1, but did not, to the surprise of some Democratic committee staffers, according to a source. Word is that by the time Kerry came up in the rotation, he had to leave for one of several roll-call votes.