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 multitude of e-mails since writing about this deal several days ago, most of them negative. He has seen the occasional positive spin, even if it’s flawed:
Count me among the minority of baseball fans that’s actually in favor of the DirecTV deal. No one talks about the monopolistic control Comcast has in the cable industry and, as anyone with even a passing familiarity with economics can tell you, the winner goes to the highest bid. Comcast likely gambled on the fact that MLB wouldn’t want to deprive some subset of its fans, but MLB never blinked. Now, I not only finally get the Comcast monkey off my back, but I’m also saving a lot of money every month with the same access to more channels and premium content. What’s not to like?
— Jon Phillips, Seattle, Wash.
I don’t care if some people like the deal, but at least like it for the correct reasons. From Mr. Phillips’ e-mail, every benefit he projects onto this deal is a benefit he could’ve gotten before the deal, while still enjoying Extra Innings. I contend that getting “the Comcast monkey” off his back wasn’t that important to him. The savings from DirecTV didn’t suddenly improve with this deal. I suspect they’ll dissipate, since DirecTV will now have monopoly power over Extra Innings. The access to channels with DirecTV didn’t change. DirecTV had the package every year leading up to this deal. Yet, Mr. Phillips never switched. His hatred of Comcast, however justified, is clearly irrelevant based on his own behavior. The only thing that changed is cable lost the last content it had that Mr. Phillips valued. That is what will send Mr. Phillips to DirecTV. The rest is just feel-good beliefs.
But is that enough to make this a good deal for Major League Baseball? After doing some research into adding DirecTV – I can be outraged and still cave to my addiction – to my house, there are very real costs involved to me. Also, the goodwill that baseball possesses as our national pastime and that it rebuilt after the labor shenanigans in ’94 can’t have a definitive dollar value, but it exists. That extra $30 million DirecTV reportedly offered is not “found money”. Major League Baseball may value it more, but it has a price.