View Full Version : Will Cable Beat DIRECTV In 'Extra Innings'?

02-19-2007, 03:07 PM
Will Cable Beat DIRECTV In 'Extra Innings'?
Dozens of weekly High-Definition games could be at stake.
By Phillip Swann

Washington, D.C. (February 19, 2007) -- DIRECTV still appears to be close to landing Major League Baseball's ''Extra Innings' package. However, cable TV operators are making a last inning pitch to keep the games, according to industry sources.

If DIRECTV wins, as expected, it would get the exclusive rights to offer the package which includes up to 60 out of market baseball games each week.

The satcaster would also be able to show many of the games in High-Definition as part of its plan to expand high-def programming in 2007 and beyond.

However, after The New York Times reported last month that DIRECTV and MLB were expected to close the deal, several congressional leaders including Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.) blasted the arrangement, saying it would disenfranchise millions of cable viewers.

"I am opposed to anything that deprives people of reasonable choices. In this day and age, consumers should have more choices -- not fewer," Kerry said in a statement this month. "A Red Sox fan ought to be able to watch their team without having to switch to DIRECTV."

Concerned that Congress could re-open legislative probes of the league's steroid policies and other sticky issues, MLB officials decided earlier this month to give the 'Extra Innings' package another look before making any announcements. The league has since searched for a plan that would satisfy both congressional critics and maintain DIRECTV's exclusivity over most games in a pay package.

In addition, according to sources, cable TV operators have freshened up their bids to keep the pay package which has been available to both cable and satellite operators for several years. The operators are also leaning on congressional supporters such as Sen. Arlen Specter (R-PA), whose state is the home of Comcast's corporate headquarters, to keep the pressure on the league.

The flurry of activity -- and scores of critical commentaries in the press -- is why the DIRECTV deal has been on hold for nearly a month.

In a conference call with analysts this month, DIRECTV CEO Chase Carey was asked about the satcaster's plans for Extra Innings but he refused to comment, saying nothing has been officially announced by the league.

In addition to what cable and DIRECTV are willing to pay for Extra Innings, another negotiation point is Major League Baseball's planned 2009 launch of a new channel devoted to baseball. The league believes DIRECTV would offer it to most, if not all, of its subscribers as a lure to sign up for the Extra Innings package.

Reigster at SatelliteGuys