MLB to fans: Go Eff Yourselves!

I could write a profanity-laden entry about this story, which is what I want to do. Even that wouldn’t begin to convey how angry I am at this move.

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.

Where do I begin? I’ve been a baseball fan since I first started little league in the late 1970s. Through nearly three decades, I’ve followed the sport with a passion reserved exclusively to this one game. I ‘ve watched games when my choice was the Game of the Week on Saturday. Then we got TBS and the Braves. Then we got the Orioles. Then the Cubs and White Sox. With ESPN, we got a few games a week. Then Extra Innings came along, and instead of the Braves, Orioles, Cubs, and whatever random game involving the Yankees ESPN showed, we got the Braves, Orioles, Cubs, White Sox, Yankees, Phillies, Cardinals, Pirates, Giants, Mets, Angels, Tigers, and so on. I could watch (almost) any game every night of the week for six glorious months of the year.

And now Bud Selig and the Major League Baseball owners decided that a few million dollars for each team were worth selling out those of us who don’t subscribe to DirecTV.

I subscribe to cable because it suits suited my needs. I dutifully subscribe to the Extra Innings package every spring so that I can watch the Phillies throughout the summer. Living in the D.C. area, this is the only chance I get to see my team on a regular basis. Now, under this greedy, anti-fan move, I can choose between the Nationals, Orioles, Braves, Cubs, and White Sox. Notice that my Phillies are nowhere in that list. I assume Major League Baseball is indifferent.

I have little doubt that Major League Baseball will compare its decision to the NFL’s exclusive deal with DirecTV. The obvious difference was that the NFL was never on another service. Every time I moved, I knew that if I wanted the NFL package, I had to subscribe to DirecTV. Major League Baseball, on the other hand, is yanking a service it offered for years. Making me change technology hardware would be rude. Making me change the services I subscribe to is hostile. This is not progress, no matter how many extra pennies it might put into owner pockets. (Also, the NFL is appointment television because there are only 16 regular season games. Major League Baseball is every night of the summer.)

I’m not sure it will make money for DirecTV. The Extra Innings package had approximately 750,000 subscribers last year. Many of those undoubtedly subscribe via cable. Not all of them are going to switch. The price of the package last year on cable was $169, if I remember correctly. To recover $100 million per year, as well as whatever extra costs it will incur to carry high-def games, DirecTV will likely raise the price. How many of that now reduced subscriber base are so die-hard that they’re indifferent to price?

Looking beyond the basic economics, the nature of satellite versus cable is a bad harbinger for the deal. What if a customer doesn’t subscribe to DirecTV and doesn’t want to switch? Too bad. What if that customer lives in an apartment or a house with an obstructed southern view? Again, too bad. But all is not lost, Major League Baseball will say. That customer can still watch the same games on The Internets, in a small pop-up window on a computer. Watching a clip on YouTube is significantly different than watching a 3-hour game in a window the same size. This will not end well.

Major League Baseball is free to make whatever decisions it wants. I don’t have to like it, and I can certainly call bullshit on its stupidity. In the same way I don’t receive baseball radio broadcasts because I prefer Sirius over XM, I’m now screwed because I prefer cable over DirecTV. Making 162 games a premium purchase is an obscene abuse of common sense. But that’s what we’ve come to expect of Bud Selig, isn’t it? He failed to kill the sport in the ’90s, but he’s finally on the right path.

(Source: Baseball Musings)

One thought on “MLB to fans: Go Eff Yourselves!”

  1. The rare positive bears the stain of the negative.

    More on Major League Baseball’s decision to give its most faithful fans the shaft sell exclusive rights to the Extra Innings package to DirecTV, this time courtesy of Buster Olney’s Insider blog at ESPN (subscription required). Olney has received a…

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