March 8, 2007 5:08 PM PST

DirecTV, MLB get two strikes on competition

DirecTV's new seven-year broadcasting agreement with Major League Baseball isn't officially exclusive, but it doesn't look like its competitors will match the offer.

Previous reports had suggested that DirecTV was about to sign an exclusive deal to air the MLB Extra Innings package of out-of-market baseball games over its satellite network. However, Dish Network and In Demand--a joint venture between cable companies--will also get an at-bat, MLB and DirecTV said in a press release Thursday.

But they must sign up for seven years, they must agree to the same rates, they must carry a channel developed by MLB on the basic tier of their subscription packages, and they must finalize a deal with MLB by opening day. The first game of the 2007 season takes place on April 1 between the New York Mets and the St. Louis Cardinals.

Financial terms of the deal were not disclosed, but earlier reports put the figure around $700 million. DirecTV has a similar exclusive relationship with the National Football League to broadcast games shown outside the viewer's home market.

Extra Innings allows baseball fans to watch games between teams other than the ones in their home markets on a day-to-day basis. ESPN and Fox show select games to national audiences, but most viewers can only follow a team in a distant market if they sign up for Extra Innings or a similar service on MLB.com.

It looks like cable customers who had signed up for the Extra Innings package will have to switch providers to follow their favorite team.

"Major League Baseball has chosen to cut a de facto exclusive deal--including conditions for carriage that MLB and DirecTV designed to be impossible for cable and DISH to meet--with one satellite operator, and disenfranchise baseball fans in the 75 million multi-channel households who do not subscribe to DirecTV," said Robert Jacobsen, president of In Demand, in a statement. In Demand is backed by Comcast, Time Warner, Cox Cable, and other companies.

EchoStar Satellite, which operates DISH Network, did not officially decline the offer, but balked at the requirement that operators be forced to include the MLB Channel if they want to offer the package. "Our concern is that an offer for Extra Innings that's tied to the MLB Channel as well will force more sports on people who might not want to pay for it," said Kathie Gonzalez, an EchoStar spokeswoman.

The reports about the exclusive deal had angered baseball fans who had already signed up to watch their favorite teams through their existing cable or satellite provider. The sticking point appeared to be including the MLB Channel on the basic subscription tier: MLB called it a "major factor" in signing the deal with DirecTV. DirecTV customers also accounted for half of all Extra Innings subscribers last season, according to the press release.

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5 comments

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Everybody loses ... except the owners
Cable subscribers lose because there will be no access to the
games.

DirecTV subscribers lose because, with the size of the deal, rates
for Extra Innings will almost certainly increase -- maybe not this
year, but you watch.

Owners win, of course, by getting huge new revenue stream. If
past is prologue, they won't use that additional revenue to hold
the line on ticket prices or revenue. Rather, they'll continue the
salary arms race, resulting in higher ticket prices.

Fans lose.
Posted by calpundit (69 comments )
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Clarification ...
No access to games through Extra Innings, I mean. there will still
be ESPN and Fox
Posted by calpundit (69 comments )
Link Flag
Free enterprise
It's called competition. One company does things to make itself
more attractive than another. The others try to imitate, innovate,
or exclude. It goes back and forth. How pathetic to listen to the
other companies complain. It's not like DirecTV is a monopoly. If
cable could have struck the same deal first with MLB I am sure
they would have.

And P.S. DirecTV is superior to cable in all respects. More
channels, way better quality, all digital sound and picture on
every channel, and soon way more HD channels, all for cheaper
than cable. Plus you don't have to deal with the cable company
anymore. Anybody whining about not having MLB can just switch
to DirecTV for free anyway and be way better off.
Posted by Lucky Lou (88 comments )
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I have Directv and got it because of the exclusivity with MLB extra innings. Last month I paid $152 for TV services, and I just installed AT&T's u-verse and it's $83 with internet. Big price difference. Only other option is to get MLB.com, for $125 per year. This does work but make sure you have a screaming PC with no hardware issues (been there done that) then problem solved. To be honest I still don't understand how there is a exclusivity anyway, isn't a monopoly against the law? Isn't that why they broke up Ma Bell in the 80's? Sounds to me some politicians are getting kickbacks.
Posted by Dodgermack22 (1 comment )
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