Wooden's World of Baseball

Sunday, March 04, 2007

Direct TV and the Displaced Fan

It's a fringe topic for most folks, since most of you are probably lucky enough to still live near your hometown team. But for those of us who have had to move away — a better job, a more robust economy, or better educational oportunities for my children — the proposed sellout by MLB to Direct TV for its out-of-market Extra Innings service is killing me.

Maybe not literally, but figuratively? Oh, yes. It's nice that my hometown Red Sox are on ESPN and Fox quite a bit, but when you're used to watching at least 2-3 innings every night, it's not enough. Of course, according to Bud Selig, it's a "slight controversy, in some places." The N.Y. Times, which is slightly more reputable, pegs the number of discontented folks as closer to 200,000 people, counting both cable buyers (like me) and the Dish Network, further noting that some 45 million subscribers (32 million digital cable, 13 million Dish Network) will be screwed in favor of the 15 million or so Direct TV subscribers.

Theories abound as to why MLB is doing this.

  • An extra $30 million a year? – That appears to be the difference between what Direct TV is offering for exclusivity versus the $70 million InDemand offered. As some fan sites note, that's a lousy $1M per team, or roughly the cost of a utility infielder.
  • Push 'em to MLB.tv Technically speaking, the "5,000 or so" folks that Direct TV "acknowledges" can't get Direct TV will have this option available to them. This gem was cited by Direct TV Chase Carey, who failed to attribute this Reaganesque factoid that ignores things like tall buildings, apartments, homeowners' associations, and bundling of cable and Internet services. Then again at $90-120 a month... that's nice change going directly to MLB Advanced Media, which hasn't (yet) gone public.
  • The Baseball ChannelMLB purportedly wants to emulate the NFL Network, which most savvy sports marketing types initially viewed as an empty threat ("Well, we could do Monday Night Football ourselves..."), and in this scenario, the proposed deal gives them two years to negotiate with cable operators to get it in place for the 2009 World Baseball Classic (no word on how long the Direct TV-MLB deal will be, but if it's two years...)

Sadly, despite the FCC investigation, I suspect this deal will happen. I have the option of Direct TV, having inherited one with my townhouse here in No. Va., but will most likely go with MLB.tv because I like the cable/internet bundle I've got, as well as the DVR rental. I'd be even angrier though if I didn't have that choice, and as you can see from the numbers above, millions do not.


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