I don’t know if you’ve been following the controversy over Major League Baseball’s deal with DirecTV for exclusive rights to their Extra Innings package – suffice it to say that my parents, who live in a north-facing condo that provides cable as part of its maintenance fees, are beside themselves at the prospect of being cut off from a regular fix of Yankee games (Mom chided me on the phone on Sunday for not having blogged about this yet) – but as things stand right now there’s dwindling hope for a stay of execution if not a better deal for all fans.
Sen. John Kerry urged Major League Baseball on today to hold off on a deal to put the sport’s Extra Innings package of out-of-market games exclusively on DirecTV. A top baseball official declined to agree, with opening day less than a week away.
Kerry, D-Mass., made the push at a Senate Commerce Committee hearing on behalf of subscribers to cable TV and EchoStar’s Dish Network who had received the package previously.
At today’s hearing, Rob Jacobson, president and CEO of iN Demand, owned by affiliates of the companies that own Time Warner, Comcast and Cox cable systems, offered to carry the package on the same terms that DirecTV is, while putting off the issue of The Baseball Channel until it is launched.
“This would ensure that for the next two years at least, all baseball fans would have access to the Extra Innings package,” he said. “If we’re unable to reach an agreement when the channel launches, we’d give baseball the right to cancel the Extra Innings deal. We think this is a fair compromise.”
Kerry, often playing the role of mediator, got behind the effort.
“What’s the matter with that?” he asked Bob DuPuy, baseball’s chief operating officer.
“We believe that DirecTV has the right to begin to help us build the channel,” DuPuy answered, adding that the cable industry had nine months to negotiate a deal.
Kerry pressed the issue, suggesting that the status quo be kept in place while the sides tried to work out a deal.
DuPuy wouldn’t agree to that, although he said, “Our door remains open” for a resolution.
Sen. Arlen Specter (R, PA) is also with Kerry on this. I know, it’s usually shameless pandering when politicians get involved in such issues. All I can say is that if you feel that way about this one, you tell it to my mother. She and my dad have written to just about everyone to plead their case so far.
BP’s Maury Brown, who’s done a lot of heavy lifting on this topic, is not particularly optimistic of a favorable resolution for fans like my folks. Mom and Dad are exploring other options, none of which are as good as what they’ve had up till now, but which may have to do. Stuff like this from MLB doesn’t help:
DuPuy said fans who have gotten the out-of-town games on other providers will still have the option of receiving them this year: by switching to DirecTV or subscribing to MLB.TV to watch the games on the Internet.
“This is not a matter of fans being unable to view Major League Baseball’s out-of-market games,” he said. “It is a matter of not being able to watch those games on a particular system.”
The problem, of course, is that DirecTV is not an option for many people, and watching on a computer is just not as good an experience. I understand why MLB is doing what it’s doing, and from a business perspective it does make sense, but it would be nice if they could refrain from spitting on the people they’re screwing in the process. Alas, that’s usually not their style. Sorry, Mom and Dad.