"Cable subscribers will once again be able to watch out-of-market
Major League Baseball games, ending their fears that the Extra Innings
package would become the exclusive domain of DirecTV for the next seven
M.L.B. and InDemand — a
consortium that is owned by the cable operators Comcast, Time Warner
and Cox — agreed last night to restore Extra Innings swiftly to their
systems as a free preview through sometime next week, after which it
will cost a discounted $159 for a short period.
crucial part of the negotiations for baseball was InDemand’s agreement
to carry the MLB Channel, which is to make its debut in 2009.
Between the deals made with DirecTV and InDemand, baseball said the
channel will have 40 million subscribers when it starts. “We believe we
have a compelling product that our fans are passionate about,” Brosnan
Robert D. Jacobson, InDemand’s president, said: “We’re
very comfortable with the deal. We feel we were treated very fairly
related to DirecTV.”
The InDemand partnership received an equity
stake of a little below 20 percent in the MLB Channel, which is about
equal to DirecTV’s.
M.L.B. will receive an average of $100
million a year through 2013 for the Extra Innings rights from DirecTV
and cable operators. The size of their yearly payments will be reduced
if Dish negotiates its own deal.
Baseball will benefit further
from its majority share of the estimated $120 million in annual gross
subscriber fees that the channel will generate."
So …. is everyone happy?
1) MLB got a boatload of added revenue
2) MLB got its Baseball Channel on cable starting in ’09
3) Cable-based fans got EI back
I’m still not happy with MLB’s heavy-handedness of this whole event, but I’m thrilled to be able to watch out-of-market games when I want to on cable.
OK … I gotta give some props to MLB.TV.
This season, their between innings commercial break screen features a baseball floating around the screen. When it reaches the edge of the screen, you hear a little Pong-like "blip" and then it floats to another corner, or towards the middle, where there is a MLB.TV "bumper". If it heads towards the bottom of the screen, a "commercial break in progress" "paddle" slides over to keep the ball floating around the screen.
Its MLB.TV "Breakout" …. its cute and clever.
(amended …. it IS cute and clever … but it DOES get a bit tiresome after a few innings)
When MLB announced its DirecTV deal for "exclusive" carrying of Extra Innings, it was announced that InDemand and DISH Network had a 3-week window to match DirecTV’s carriage promises for the 2009 debut of "The Baseball Channel" if it wanted to continue to carry EI.
It was a bit of an olive branch thrown out by MLB, perhaps to appease the irate rabid fan base of EI cable subscribers, perhaps to get the FCC and Sen. Kerry and Specter off their backs. It also allowed MLB to say to their fans … "hey, we gave cable and DISH the chance to match the DirecTV offer, and they wouldn’t, so don’t scream at us."
So … now … with less than 2 weeks till Opening Day, InDemand announces that it will carry the "Baseball Channel" in ’09, and that it will be match the DirecTV EI offer. But MLB doesn’t believe InDemand met all the criteria set forth.
"IN Demand said Wednesday it will offer to match the terms of DirecTV’s $700 million, seven-year deal with Major League Baseball on behalf its owners, who are affiliates of the companies that own Time Warner, Comcast and Cox cable systems.
As part of the offer, iN Demand also said it would carry The Baseball Channel when it launches in 2009 to at least the same number of subscribers who will get the channel on DirecTV.
"As the current home for ‘Extra Innings’ for more than 200,000 cable subscribers, we have extended ourselves to do our best to be able to continue to provide this package to baseball fans and our customers," iN Demand president Robert Jacobson said. "This offer meets all the conditions set forth by MLB last week."
Bob DuPuy, baseball’s chief operating officer, issued a statement responding to the offer Wednesday.
"The offer to match the terms of the agreement reached by MLB and DirecTV remains open to iN Demand and Dish until the deadline of March 31, 2007," DuPuy said in the statement. "The communication sent to our office today by iN Demand is not responsive to that offer. In spite of their public comments, the response falls short of nearly all of the material conditions (among them requirements for carriage of The Baseball Channel and their share of the rights fees for Extra Innings) set forth in the Major League Baseball offer made to them on March 9."
"Major League Baseball … I haggle for this …"
You should also contact your local cable TV provider.
"MLB and DirecTV reached a seven year agreement for DirecTV to carry
MLB Extra Innings. In addition, DirecTV will add enhancements, such as
a mosaic channel. DirecTV will also carry the Baseball Channel when it
debuts in 2009.
In Demand and Dish Network, the other incumbent carriers of Extra
Innings can still buy the package. However, they have until the end of
March, and they must pay the same rate as DirecTV, and carry the
Baseball Channel as well. If neither of these providers signs on to the
deal, DirecTV gets an exclusive and pays more money to MLB. MLB
suggests people who get Extra Innings on Dish and In Demand call their
providers to encourage them to make a deal for Extra Innings.
So there’s still hope fans won’t be shut out, but there’s not much time left."
This still reeks of anti-fan money-grubbing …. but its not a poison pill (yet).
One reader’s comment on another (non-MLB.com) blog kind of sums up the shadiness of this deal:
"Its good to know that MLB is using its power to help out a soon-to-be
owner in Liberty Media. One that is buying the Braves to make sure it
doesn’t have to pay any income taxes on their sale of Time Warner stock
back to Time Warner."
Major League Baseball and DIRECTV will make a major joint
announcement on a 4:15 P.M. (EST) conference call this afternoon.
Baseball Commissioner Allan H. (Bud) Selig, Major League Baseball
President & Chief Operating Officer Bob DuPuy, MLB Executive Vice
President for Business Tim Brosnan and DIRECTV President & Chief
Executive Officer Chase Carey will be among the representatives who
will be available on the call.
Its all about the Benjamins boys and girls …. your opinion doesn’t count. As long as there are broadcast partners willing to shell out dollars, MLB will sell its product to the highest bidder.