John Donovan's Inside Baseball
column offers more background and insight at:http://sportsillustrated.cnn.com/2007/writers/john_donovan/01/23/directv.extrainnings/index.htmlMLB's brushback pitchDeal with DirecTV could leave most fans out in cold
Posted: Tuesday January 23, 2007 2:42PM; Updated: Tuesday January 23, 2007 7:41PM
The last place that any baseball fan ever wants to be is between team owners and a dollar bill... Major League Baseball is in the process of negotiating exclusive rights to its Extra Innings package of out-of-market games to satellite giant DirecTV, and that means a lot of fans are about to get absolutely crushed into the dirt. The Extra Innings package, for the hundreds of thousands of fans who have shelled out the $170 or so for it already know, is a seamhead's dream: almost unlimited baseball broadcast by home-team announcers for six months. Up to 60 regular-season games a week...
But now, if this deal between MLB and DirecTV goes through as expected, you won't be able to get Extra Innings through your local cable TV outfit. Or through Dish Network, either. If you want the Extra Innings package, starting with the 2007 season, you'll have to be a DirecTV subscriber. No exceptions. That, as I understand the concept, is the whole "exclusive rights" thing...
If it so happens that you can't get DirecTV, or you don't want to -- say, you live in an apartment complex that makes it impossible or difficult to use a satellite dish, or you're in another place where a dish can't get a clear shot at a satellite, or you just don't like their looks or the fact that the reception can get a little fuzzy in the worst of weather -- well, you're pretty much out of luck...There is another option, of course, which not so coincidentally falls rather nicely into baseball's money-hungry ways. If this deal goes through, and DirecTV isn't an option, you could always go to MLB.TV, Major League Baseball's Internet-based version of Extra Innings. You have to have a broadband hookup, of course, and the computer screen is super wimpy compared to that 42-inch living room screen of yours. The technology isn't flawless, by any means. But it's there, for those who get shut out by the DirecTV deal, at about $100 a season.
It's hard to say exactly how many people this new MLB-DirecTV hookup is going to affect because nobody wants to talk much about something still in the works. According to The Sports Business Journal, Extra Innings pulled in about 750,000 subscribers last year through sales on Dish Network, DirecTV and cable systems throughout the U.S. With two-thirds of that equation potentially gone -- including, we'd have to assume, the largest part, cable TV -- we could have, maybe, as many as a half-million die-hard baseball fans scrambling around....
The reason MLB is forsaking that many fans shouldn't surprise anyone. DirecTV, according to a report in the New York Times, will fork over $700 million for seven years for the exclusive rights to carry Extra Innings. So MLB is faced with this simple decision: $700 million or a few thousand upset seamheads... The deal with DirecTV will make it more difficult for many baseball fans to get what they want, how they want. It's really as simple as that. And that's no way to treat the customer."My Comment:
The concept would be similar to DirecTV offering HBO an enormous amount of money to give them exclusive
rights to broadcast it. Everyone who now gets HBO, through any competing satellite system, or through any cable TV subscription, would have to switch to DirecTV. By having a monopoly, DirecTV could, in theory, charge subscribers as much as they wanted, since there would be no competition to stop them. The possibility for intervention by the federal government on the grounds of anti-trust violations encourages the Senate to also force MLB to give the Nationals 100% of their own TV rights.