According to the New York Times, MLB is close to handing DirecTV the exclusive rights to Extra Innings – which allows fans to watch many out-of-market games – for $100 million per year over seven years. InDemand, which distributes the package currently, has upped its offer, but, according to the Washington Times, its deal will pay about $30 million less per year.

The difference averages out to $1 million per franchise, per year – or, in these days of overheated player spending, chicken scratch. Even if it was five times that, it wouldn’t seem worth it to keep the product from so many fans.

The article goes on to raise to some interesting issues…but it comes down to “What is MLB thinking?”

UPDATE (by Chad): I think I agree with this take on the whole thing.

About The Author

I've been a Reds fan since the late '60's, with my luck of being able to attend plenty of games at Riverfront during the BRM era. I was sitting in the Green Seats in the OF when Pete came home in '84 and was in the Red seats when Glenn Braggs reached over the fence in '90 to beat the Pirates. I have had many favorites from Jim Maloney to Johnny Bench, Barry Larkin, Adam Dunn, and Jay Bruce.

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27 Responses

  1. Chris

    Joe Sheehan had an interesting take on this the other day at Prospectus. Essentially, he said that MLB doesn’t (and “shouldn’t,” at least in economic terms) worry about the displaced cable subscribers – since those are the most hardcore fans who aren’t going to abandon baseball, in any event. Most will either get Direct TV or, anyway, or watch more local broadcasts. Theoretically, the increased revenues from those sources, plus the extra $30M per year from Direct TV, will make up for the few who cancel altogether (750,000 homes subscribed last year).

    His conclusion: Make no mistake: this is a fairly fan-hostile decision. However, MLB has proven that it will alienate a segment of the population in the short term to make more money in any term.

  2. Chris

    Here’s the real question: What’s a geogrpahically-displaced Reds fan to do? I’m in San Diego, and have subscribed to EI via cable for 5-6 years now. I’d love some feedback on these options:

    – Direct TV. Pro – I can get the MLB and NFL packages; supposedly more HDTV channels than cable. Con – no access to the Padres, who have 150-some games (most in HD) on local cable.

    – Pro: Cheaper, all the games. Con: watching games on the laptop when I just bought a 50 inch HDTV; Can I “tape” the game and watch when I get home, like with Tivo?

    Quit Cold Turkey: Pro: The Reds are going to suck anyway, and I still have XM; a George-Grande-Free summer!

    Slingbox in my parents basement in Ohio. Has anyone tried this? Again, I’m back on the laptop, I guess – is picture quality any better? Also, can you “tape” programs for watching later?

  3. Bill

    Chris, why no access to the Padre games? You can purchase the local channels, in fact, you can purchase local channels, and the east and west coast network feeds.

  4. Ken

    I live in Philadelphia and have EI through DTV, and I have the same problem as Chris in that I cannot get Phillies games because they are mostly on Comcast (a local channel carries some Sunday games). To me, it’s not a huge sacrifice. I go to some games and read the local paper, and that’s enough Phillies for me.

    I disagree with Sheehan that only “hard core” fans subscribe to EI. I’d guess that displaced fans are the majority of subscribers, and that’s not necessarily the same as “hard core.” Maybe they are simply interested fans with extra disposable income. Some of those fans may very well tune out MLB altogether if it means they cannot (or it becomes a major hassle to) follow their favorite team.

  5. Mr. Redlegs

    Chris, I addressed this for you the other day on Rosecran’s site, so maybe you didn’t see it.

    If you really want the Padres games and not go to the dish, your best bet is keeping your local cable and then subscribing to MLBTV.

    Yeah, sometimes it blows to watch games on your computer but I’ve also found it amazingly convenient at others–traveling, in the hotels, airports or even chained to an office or work site.

    MLBTV has a tier in which you pay extra (o course) and you can watch like 1 million games at once. Best of all, you can watch a game in its entirety later, or get an abbreviated version that lasts about half an hour or so. I found myself using that a lot.

    You will need a broadband connection, and they still have some work to do on picture quality and customer service. But you can clearly see where they are headed–and the price is terrific.

    I’m a big fan of DirecTV and you can’t go wrong there. In San Diego, you’ll never have any of the weather issues that happen in the most severe instances. The downside is their HD broadcasting is pretty limited thus far. The upside is you’ll still get your local cable and you’ll have access to the MLB and NFL packages.

    There ya have it!

  6. Chris

    Thanks. To answer Bill, the Padres are only on a local Cox cable channel (mostly devoted to the Padres). It’s available on all local cable carriers, but not satellite. They have 0 over-the-air games.

    Looks like I’ll be aiming toward, which my wife will like because it’s cheaper and frees up the TV and Tivo. One question – I understand that I can watch games later, but if I get home at, say 2 hours after first pitch, can I start from the beginning, or are my options either watch it live or wait for the archived version after conclusion? (Does that even make sense?)

  7. Mr. Redlegs

    Yes Chris, that’s an excellent question. You pick up the MLBTV broadcast in progress. Archived version is usually about an hour after the game.

    Here’s my bitches with MLBTV and seriously hope they fix them for this season:

    1. Picture Quality: Forget it if you don’t have broadband, such as cable Internet or Verizon Fios. You need all the m’s you can get. They say 3 is the minimum; I say it’s 5.

    2. Screen Size: The viewing area is only about 6×4, but that’s also an issue with the amount of space being gobbled by the stream. I’m just hoping there’s a better compression this year so the screen can be bigger.

    3. Customer Service: Absolutely atrocious.

    4. Home and Away Broadcasts: Still don’t understand this one. We can get home-and-away for the radiocasts, but on the broadcasts we are stuck with whatever feed they decide to give us. If it was straight home-and-away, I’d understand better. But even on days when both teams are airing the game sometimes you get the opposing team broadcast when the Reds are playing at home. Give us the option to choose which broadcast feed we want. It just can’t be that difficult.

    5. Pre- and Post-Game Shows: The feed comes on at exactly game time and and shuts off within a minute or so of game’s end. Again, what’s the big deal of giving the fans these wrap-around shows?

    Obviously these are part of the growing pains. If you are going to be an “early riser” with technology many times you also have to be patient during the curve. But overall, I think it’s a solid all-around service, especially with the radiocasts. I understand this year we might be able to get the radiocasts over our cell phones.

    Now that makes a ton of sense!

  8. Chad

    This doesn’t bother me, because I have DirecTV, and I get, as well (some games aren’t on DirecTV).

    To clear up one misconception: the archived games are not available one hour after the games on They’re not available until the next day.

  9. Chris

    It doesn’t sound like is going to be much use for me, since I usually get home in about the 5th inning. I’m still thinking about that Slingbox thing.

  10. Jay

    if this happens, it’s a sucky deal and I hope and pray it blows up in MLB’s face.

  11. George

    I live in a building that does not allow satellite anntennas and I have a Mac which is not supported by SO I guess I’m S.O.L. And by the way, Major League Baseball is considered the national pastime by Congress, and as such they have received exemptions from anti-trust laws. So, if they want to be “just a business” fine, we should take away their legal goodies and let them be a business just like everyone else. What a hustle on the fans. And I’m not whining–but you would hear a good deal of whining from ownership if they lost their special protections.

  12. George

    Also, we fans often end up footing the bill for their friggin’ stadiums, so we do have a simple right to have access to the games.

  13. Bill

    Could one of our readers that are lawyers make clear what the ramifications would be if they listed the anti-trust exemption?

  14. Chris

    My antitrust knowledge is very limited, but this looks like a pretty thorough summary. I’m really not sure if the antitrust exemption would make a difference on the Direct TV deal (the NFL has no antitrust exemption, and the same deal). BUT, the exception is important for several other reasons, and Congress could use the threat of lifting it to coerce more fan-friendly behavior on several fronts. I’d prefer that to be the DTV deal and the idiotic blackout rules, but knowing Congress, we’re going to hear more about George Mitchell and Mark McGwire.

  15. Stacey

    I am a yankees fan, but more importanly a Baseball fan. As soon as I heard about the EI package going to direct tv I have been searching online for a way to have my voice heard. Last night I found a petition online. I don’t know if it will do anything, but I wanted to get it out to as many people as possible. Here’s the link:
    thanks for letting me vent

  16. dave thomphson

    as a die-hard baseball fan who watches mlb on cable, i will not, i repeat, will not go to direct tv to watch this.
    so to the people who advertize, see ya.hey mlb, ya gotta love that attitude. now if we all did that!!!!

  17. Pedro

    I think that this stinks!! I live in NYC which means I live in an apartment and anyone in NYC knows that apartments CAN NOT GET DIRECT-TV!!!!!!!
    So, I either have to watch on the computer (not great for switching between games) or not … I’ll see how pissed I am by the begining of the season!! 🙁

  18. Chris

    Pedro, you might want to check this out. This isn’t really my area, but I believe Congress passed legislation, and the FCC has regulations that make it a lot easier for apartment-dwellers to get Direct TV.

  19. Dave

    Please, Please, Please do not do this MLB. I can not get local channels with Direct TV so I can not and WILL NOT switch from Cable. Don’t be the PIGS that you usually are, and leave it available to all. Is the money worth losing more fans??

  20. Craig C.

    I am actually a Tigers fan, but when I heard about MLB’s recent money grubbing plan to (again) screw many of it’s fans that don’t have(or want) Direct TV I was looking for some way to vent. Searching on the topic brought me to this Redlegs site. I’m mad as hell! I have cable, am happy with cable, and have no desire to switch to !@#$!ing DirectTV. Not now. Not ever. So does anyone know if an official petition/complaint is being compiled that I can get in on. Not that it will do any good, but I think fans should let Selig know that once again he is doing a discredit to baseball and it’s fans. But I guess I shouldn’t be surprised, right?

  21. Craig C.

    Nevermind, I found it. But with less than 150 signatures I doubt King Bud will even flinch as he signs away his soul(again).

  22. Aaron

    I am an EI subscriber on local cable and am frustrated by the potential move, but in the past I’ve had both major satellite companies (I used to live outside of my NFL team’s home area and had to subscribe to DTV to get Sunday Ticket) and now local cable, I have to say I don’t notice too much of a difference.

    I will definitely follow the package to DTV. And those of you who think you are prohibited from getting the games, follow Chris’s link and look up any other resources that the FCC may have on the topic of an apartment-dweller’s right to satellite tv. That shouldn’t be too big of an obstacle.

    Also, I’m not an anti-trust lawyer, but I did want to clarify the ESPN article on the MLB anti-trust exemption linked to by Chris, above. The NFL DOES receive an anti-trust exemption as it relates to negotiating TV deals, which is why the league collectively negotiates its TV contracts with NBC, CBS, FOX and ESPN each year, and why only pre-season games are covered by local networks. The anti-trust exemption is what allows the NFL to enter into an exclusive contract with any network, grants it the ability to impose blackout restrictions, and permits it to enter into an exclusive deal with DirecTV for the Sunday Ticket package.

    It is that aspect of the anti-trust exemption baseball will be (ab)using to make the exclusive contract with DirecTV.

    If you think about it, 750,000 subscribers x $150 a pop for a subscription “only” amounts to a little over $112 million a year, so the fact that DTV is willing to pay $100 million a year for exclusive rights means that subscriptions can go down significantly and baseball will still be where they want to be. Plus, it will induce more people to subscribe to the vastly inferior (in my humble opinion) product, which I think is a close secondary motivation to the primary motivation which, as always when MLB is involved, is money.

    If you think about it, MLB is getting guaranteed money for the next 7 seasons from directv that almost equals what the subscription fees to EI were last season alone. Baseball is enjoying one of its longest periods of prosperity since before the ’94 strike, and historically speaking probably ever. With the steroids issue on the horizon, and the potential for more labor unrest never very far away, it probably makes sense to strike while the iron’s hot, and who can blame baseball for wanting to get just a piece of the television pie that the NFL enjoys.

    Ironically there is little or no backlash against the NFL’s arrangement, which arguably boxes out local fans on a more frequent basis, by only televising 3 regional games per week along with 2 national telecasts. MLB’s tv deals give more deference to local broadcasts.

  23. howie

    Boo to MLB for going to directv. I am sad to say that as a displaced Yankee fan living in Seattle I have switched over to Directv. I know it is a bad thing, but I need to see the Yankees! Sorry everyone and Boo to MLB for putting us fans out in the cold!!!

    Go Yankees!!!!

  24. Barry Spiegel

    How can this be about money? The cable guys offered to pony up the same as DTV, so that isn’t it. The claim that even with equal money, cable’s failure to guarantee space for a 2009 Baseball Channel on the basic tier makes baseball a specialty offering is likewise weak. Isn’t DTV itself a specialty offering? Or does MLB see a 15 million subscriber count as more common than cable’s 75 million subscriber total?

    The math doesn’t work on this. How do you think it will work when MLB tries to sell the Baseball Channel to fans? Do you think thousands of ardent cable-based EI customers will forget their shabby mistreatment?

    I know that I won’t.

  25. Dave

    I used to have MLBtv and it was ok. My 2 biggest issues were this:
    1. You come into the game when log in. So for me in the west coast by the time I get home from work I’ve missed the first 4 inngings at least. The archived games are not available until the next day so what good does that do me.
    2. If you do miss a game and want to watch it from the begining forget it. It will drop you from the feed and you will spend all day logging back in and trying to watch a whole game.
    Extra Innings is/was the way to go. The fact that they offered same money as DirectTv proves to me that this is a big FU to the fans. DirectTV is promising MLB anything when it comes to the MLB channel they are going to roll out in 2009.
    Bud doesn’t care about who he screws over to get what he wants.

  26. Dave

    Please go to the InDemand website click on MLB Extra Innings they also are taking comments on this unfair deal. Let’s give them as many of our comments as possible so they may present the case to Congress on March 27th. Until there is no hope, I will continue to do what I can to be informed and try to keep EI on cable. I ask you all do the same. I love my team and baseball too much not to try.