1.21.2007

this could be the worst baseball season ever

Here we are counting days until pitchers and catchers report, only to learn that we probably won't be able to watch the Red Sox - or any other out-of-town team - on TV this year. Because once again, Major League Baseball is screwing over the fans. From the New York Times via Joy of Sox:
Major League Baseball is close to announcing a deal that will place its Extra Innings package of out-of-market games exclusively on DirecTV, which will also become the only carrier of a long-planned 24-hour baseball channel.

Extra Innings has been available to 75 million cable households and the two satellite services, DirecTV and the Dish Network. But the new agreement will take it off cable and Dish because DirecTV has agreed to pay $700 million over seven years, according to three executives briefed on the details of the contract but not authorized to speak about them publicly.

InDemand, which has distributed Extra Innings to the cable television industry since 2002, made an estimated $70 million bid to renew its rights, more than triple what it has been paying. Part of its offer included the right to carry the new baseball channel, but not exclusively.

. . .

Extra Innings lets subscribers, for a fee, watch about 60 games a week from other local markets except their own.

The only other way that fans without DirecTV will be able to see Extra Innings will be on MLB.com's mlb.tv service, but they must have high-speed broadband service. About 28 million homes have high-speed service, less than half the number of cable homes in the country. The picture quality of streamed games is not as good as what is available on cable or satellite.
And people call the players greedy! (Not me.)

I well understand that Major League Baseball is a business and exists to make money. I don't need to be reminded of that and I don't have a problem with it. But a move like this demonstrates MLB's utter contempt for their fans. Instead of negotiating contracts that bring baseball to the greatest number of people possible, they assign exclusive rights, putting the interests of a television provider ahead of the interests of millions of fans.

We don't want to watch baseball on our friggin computers! We want to watch it on TV. That's why we pay for digital cable!

I'm stunned over this - and furious. I'm also hoping against hope that this boneheaded decision can be reversed. It wouldn't be the first time that fan outrage changed an MLB decision; remember the Spiderman bases?

Most wmtc readers are not effected by this, but if you are, please don't just complain to yourselves and your blog. Go to the source.
The Office of the Commissioner of Baseball
245 Park Avenue - 31st Floor
New York, NY 10167
212.931.7800
P.S. PLEASE don't suggest - even in jest - that I solve this problem by becoming a Blue Jays fan. Thank you in advance for your cooperation.

24 comments:

Jere said...

That seems to be what most people do: suggest you just change something about YOURSELF. Like, I spent years and years complaining that I couldn't get New England Sports Network(home of my Red Sox), despite being born and raised IN New England! (because mine was the one county considered outside NESN's area)

And the most commom response I'd get from friends is "Move to Boston." Hello? Has anyone told YOU to just move away to some other city? Hey, here's what you should do, don't fight it, just CHANGE. Screw that. At least no one told me, "Just become a Yankee fan." (They knew what kind of response THAT would've gotten.)

Anyway, I guess the irony is that going as we head toward this "no out of town baseball" season, I actually probably AM moving to Boston, as my girlfriend lives there and it's about time we weren't 4 hours apart anymore. But I will always fight things like the NESN thing (which still goes on today--no Red Sox in Fairfield County, CT, PART OF New England) and this new stupid DirectTV thing.

L-girl said...

Thanks for fighting the fight even though you won't be affected by it anymore.

If I hadn't posted that PS, I guarantee several people would have suggested it. And hey, someone still might. People who don't follow a sport or a team have no idea what it's like.

****

This just has me reeling. I can't imagine not being able to watch every game. I've been very fortunate. By the time I was rooting for an out-of-town team, we had digital cable and could get Extra Innings.

If I had been one of the Yankee fans shut out during the Cablevision dispute, I would have been insane.

Woti-woti said...

I decided to post here because I try to keep my JoS thoughts free of political rants. But don't you just love it when the freedom-loving, free market-loving capitalists spend all their time trying to build monopolies and extinguish competition? MLB has to be fully aware of the huge difference in cable vs dish households--their strategy has to be to get people to turn to MLB-TV so that they're one click away from the 'SHOP' tab. In addition to the current disparity, there are real obstacles that prevent people from getting dishes, while cable is almost universally available throughout both the US and Canada. Everything points to the greedy bastards just wanting you to 'buy the gear'.

Not sure whether it's going to start this season, also unclear how it affects Canada. My understanding is that Bell and Star Choice split the dish market here, DirectTV is not allowed. Rogers and Cogeco both offer 'NFL Sunday Ticket', which is a dish exclusive in the States (I think). To be honest, I was surprised when Rogers started offering MLB-EI, since it allowed Canadian baseball fans to avoid his Jays and watch their own favourite for less than a buck a day (so I always figured it was one of those too-good-to-be-true deals). I guess those days are numbered. My apartment faces due north--so a dish is out--even if I wanted one. Looks like it's back to MLB-audio (another monopoly). I've snacked occasionally on MLB-TV just to look-see--the picture quality is pathetic. No thanks.

L-girl said...

But don't you just love it when the freedom-loving, free market-loving capitalists spend all their time trying to build monopolies and extinguish competition?

Eyup. All hail capitalism, except when it causes me to lose money, then please can I have a little corporate welfare?

Woti, I wish you would post this at JoS. It's not really political - it's just honest.

Did the recent JM/RS/LG smackdown turn you off? I know the righties on the blog hated it, but I didn't want to offend the smart folks, too. :)

L-girl said...

My understanding is that Bell and Star Choice split the dish market here, DirectTV is not allowed.

That is my understanding too.

Woti-woti said...

Not sure of your smackdown reference. Did I miss some dirt? Anyway, I welcome opposing opinions and try not to take anything personal.
Back to the matter at hand. It occurs to me that another way to approach this is through the CRTC and their assinine rule that prohibits US Regional Sports Networks (and--shudder--ESPN) from being on our cable menu because of their lack of Canadian content. Why shouldn't we be allowed to pay for NESN if we want to? All so Jaime Campbell or Marty York can keep their jobs (er, or so Marty can get one when the CFL starts)? Please.

L-girl said...

Not sure of your smackdown reference. Did I miss some dirt?

We had, as we say in baseball, a donnybrook. :)

Should you be interested, it's in the "does Pedro have a 19-year-old son" thread. It begins with a gratuitous but innocuous comment on my part - which offended someone - which in turn led to a non-innocuous and also gratuitous comment on someone else's part - and I went ballistic.

It occurs to me that another way to approach this is through the CRTC and their assinine rule that prohibits US Regional Sports Networks (and--shudder--ESPN) from being on our cable menu because of their lack of Canadian content.

Ah-ha! So that's why we don't have ESPN. I can't believe how much I miss Baseball Tonight. I really, really miss it.

Why shouldn't we be allowed to pay for NESN if we want to?

However... no one in the US can do this, either. Regional sports networks like NESN, YES and all the rest are only available to certain designated Zip codes. That's what Jere is talking about, above. Or why, eg, Allan couldn't order NESN in NYC. (Although Jere's story is different, since almost all of Connecticut is NESN territory.)

Out-of-market, you can get some of the programming from regional sports networks through packages like Extra Innings, but that's it.

So that's not just CRTC, it's also FCC, and it's the way the cable deals are structured.

Woti-woti said...

Oh, yeah, I saw the Pedro thing---I only get into stuff like that if I think I actually know something. Anyway, I always thought the NESN/CT thing was an MLB territorial right thing. Guess it makes sense that it's just another cable monopoly thing. I'm convinced that the execs in charge aren't normal consumers anyway. Have you ever seen the way their HQ's bristle with every type of dish imaginable? We little people have to vote with our wallets whenever we can.

L-girl said...

I only get into stuff like that if I think I actually know something.

If only everyone was as smart as you.

redsock said...

To be honest, I was surprised when Rogers started offering MLB-EI, since it allowed Canadian baseball fans to avoid his Jays and watch their own favourite for less than a buck a day

Who would do that? Jays fans will watch the Jays and a very small amount of people will tune in if there is nothing else to do.

I'd rather follow the Sox on Gameday with no video or audio than watch another team instead.

L-girl said...

It seems to me that companies usually make the most money by offering the widest variety of choices possible. The more stuff that's on Rogers Cable, the more people want it. Ted's going to make more money from having more teams on his service, less money from having only the Jays.

This is partly why Selig's exclusive contract is so wrong. Why not strike lucrative deals with all the providers? Why restrict viewership instead of expanding it?

Grrrr.

teflonjedi said...

I am very sympathetic myself. As you know, I'm in exile, 8 time zones away from my beloved Canucks, and 11 from the Pats, so it's very difficult to keep up with at all for me. If there were better marketing and sales on the part of all of the sports leagues, they'd find they'd have a much wider market. You cannot imagine how many places over here in Asia I find European football games on the telly...those soccer guys have this down much better than anyone else.

L-girl said...

You cannot imagine how many places over here in Asia I find European football games on the telly...those soccer guys have this down much better than anyone else.

I've heard that it's super easy to follow UK or European football anywhere on the planet.

But you'd even have an easier time with baseball than you're having now! Or, you would have, before this...

Thanks for your sympathies. Hope all is well.

Scott M. said...

PLEASE don't suggest - even in jest - that I solve this problem by becoming a Blue Jays fan. Thank you in advance for your cooperation.

So... tempting... must... hold... back... :)

Woti-woti said...

Redsock said: "Who would do that."

You're making rational entertainment decisions. I had in mind the countless bars, restaurants, homes etc. where men gather and a muted TV is on in the background. Invariably, it's tuned to a live sporting event. Rogers had a nation-wide monopoly on summer baseball watching with his Jays. Sure, people are barely watching, but it's the beer commercials with the babes that attract periodic attention. And if the Jays are winning, people actually pay attention to game. By offering the MLB-EI package, the further you get away from TO, especially down east, the more people are likely to ask the barkeep to switch to the Sox or Yankees. Lost eyeballs for Mr. Rogers. But maybe the additional cable fees are worth it. Or maybe Bud whispered in his ear that it would look bad for his 29 other fellow owners if his cable empire did not offer the service. It certainly rounds out his monthly premium 'Super Sports Pak'. There'll be a hell of a gap between end of hockey and start of NFL if this thing goes through.

Scott M. said...

Just to reconfirm, BTW, DirecTV did *not* buy the rights to the Canadian market (nor would they, it is 100% illegal to sell or buy their service up here).

The question outstanding is what negotiations DirecTV will have with Canadian carriers and the CRTC.

Scott M. said...

Oh... and to further comfort you, MLB/DirecTV/InDemand (whoever has the rights) can't sign an "exclusive" deal with one BDU (cable or satelllite company) as these are disallowed (see section 6.1 of the Pay Television Regulations.

If MLB/DirecTV/InDemand offers the package to one carrier, it must be available to all. Now obviously BDUs can enter into negotiations and not agree on price and then not carry it, but the MLB/DirecTV/InDemand cannot offer one BDU the rights at one price and another at another price.

Woti-woti said...

So what you're saying Scott M. is that the CRTC is actually looking out for we little people here? Great day in the morning. I guess the moral of the story is don't fire till ya see the whites of their eyes.

Scott M. said...

But the CRTC can't *force* MLB/DirecTV/InDemand to sell the product in Canada.

And actually, as it's written, I should make a slight correction... any BDU can enter into an exclusive deal with a channel or programmer, but if they do they cannot AIR the content they have exclusive rights to.

So, there's always the possibility that someone enters into an exclusive deal with the hope of denying anyone in Canada the ability to get MLB-EI.

Woti-woti said...

Yes, understood, thanks Scott M. for the factual background.

Bottom line: Is it in ol' Ted's best interests to preserve his Super Sports Pak (at a price tbd) and offload to the other regionals as appropriate (like my Cogeco), thus keeping the service away from the dish competition, or simply walking away? Since money is involved, we'll find out soon enough. No sense bothering my friendly customer support person in Burlington just yet.

Woti-woti said...

Oops, my bad--poor choice of words. Rogers can't keep the service away from anybody, just make it more expensive for them to carry it (or not).

M@ said...

I've heard that it's super easy to follow UK or European football anywhere on the planet.

On this... everywhere but in Europe. When a good friend of mine was living in Germany, he was shocked to find that I could see far more German league matches than him on any given weekend -- three on Saturday and one or two on Sunday. Plus we get four or five English Premier League matches, two Spanish matches, at least four (sometimes six) Italian league matches... and that doesn't even take into account the odd matches from the US, Ecuadorean, Mexican, Colombian, and Brazilian leagues, and even some North American minor league soccer. Plus Champions League and UEFA Cup, plus any international tournament Canada manages to qualify for.

In Germany, everyone got basically their local teams' matches and one or two featured matches each week.

I don't know how it works, but I'm hoping MLB will work out better for you in Canada than it will for the average American viewer...

By the way, are we also supposed to not advise you to watch a different sport? :)

L-girl said...

This has been very interesting! Thanks, especially to Scott M and Woti.

So... tempting... must... hold... back... :)

Well done. :)

By the way, are we also supposed to not advise you to watch a different sport? :)

Shall I dignify this with a response? :)

M@ said...

Probably better that we both pretend I never said it.

Anyhow, we can discuss it at a Red Sox game at Skydome!