Senators Have Tough Words For DirecTV's "Extra Innings" Deal

Senator John Kerry, D-Mass., had questions for Major League Baseball and DirecTV at a Senate Commerce Committee hearing on behalf of subscribers to cable TV and EchoStar Communications Corp.’s Dish Network who are threatened by the DirecTV-only “Extra Innings” deal.

From the AP:

At Tuesday’s hearing, Rob Jacobson, president and CEO of iN Demand, owned by affiliates of the companies that own Time Warner Cable Inc., Comcast Corp. and Cox Communications Inc., offered to carry the package on the same terms that DirecTV is, while putting off the issue of The Baseball Channel until it is launched.

“This would ensure that for the next two years at least, all baseball fans would have access to the ‘Extra Innings’ package,” he said. “If we’re unable to reach an agreement when the channel launches, we’d give baseball the right to cancel the ‘Extra Innings’ deal. We think this is a fair compromise.”

Kerry, often playing the role of mediator, got behind the effort.

“What’s the matter with that?” he asked Bob DuPuy, baseball’s chief operating officer.

“We believe that DirecTV has the right to begin to help us build the channel,” DuPuy answered, adding that the cable industry had nine months to negotiate a deal.

Arlen Spector, R-Penn., a long-time critic of DirecTV’s Sunday Ticket package said, “When fans react, Congress reacts,” he said, adding, “You may be well advised to act before we do.” To which the Chase “You’ll Watch What I Say You’ll Watch And Like It” Carey responded, “I don’t run down to Washington every time we have a contract issue or a programming issue or a cost issue.” Ooooh, bitchy! —MEGHANN MARCO

Kerry Presses Baseball on DirecTV Deal [Houston Chronicle]
(Photo: Scott Ableman)

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  1. homerjay says:

    Do they REALLY have nothing more important to worry about?? REALLY????

  2. FLConsumer says:

    Welcome to capitalism folks… If you don’t like it, MOVE. Exclusivity contracts have been very popular in recent years and this is no different. Maybe next year the cable cos and Echostar will put together a decent deal.

  3. simian-fever says:

    I don’t have a problem with exclusivity contracts that still allow one to obtain that exclusive content, but in this case many people are unable to use a satellite dish at their location due to trees, buildings, rules, etc.
    thus preventing them from partaking in non-local MLB games.

    Its your fault when you decide you don’t want to change to Direct TV, certainly not your fault when its not even an option.

    I think thats the difference, but there are more important things for Senators to worry about.

    MLB.tv is crap. Hit and miss, tried it last year to mixed results and prefer the cheaper radio package.

  4. DougDascenzo says:

    I think it’s kind of a weird thing for the Senate to be worried about, but as a consumer I think this deal sucks balls. If you’re an MLB fan living outside your team’s home area, the only way you can get their games is with DirecTV. That just seems absurd, and once again MLB takes the quick buck over their own long-term interests (i.e. giving as many people as possible access to their product without alienating a large portion of their most devoted customers, the ones willing to shell out for this plan).

    I could be missing some huge advantage, but DirecTV just seems like an outdated technology. Who wants one of those stupid dishes hanging off their balcony or on their roof? And many apartment buildings don’t even allow it.

  5. Raven.Nights says:

    FLConsumer, you are what is wrong with America these days. “Hey, instead of working towards change I’ll just let myself get rolled over by whomever wants to take advantage of me.”

  6. zentec says:

    I don’t have a problem with these contracts, exclusivity and whatever the cable MSOs, channels and sports outfits decide on how to market the sport. What I DO have a problem with is having to pay for these arrangements when I do not even watch the sport.

    If Senator Kerry wanted to do the consumer some real good, he would demand that the tying contracts that help ESPN and other networks pay for the huge deals for broadcast rights be supported solely by those who watch them. That means that unless I actually subscribed to ESPN, I wouldn’t be paying for it.

    I have no problem with capitalism and the drive for enrichment both on an individual and corporate basis. But it’s unfortunate that the corporations get to employ all the benefits of a free market and yet that is excluded to me through tying contracts and the subsidy of channels that normally wouldn’t have a chance of survival.

    If MLB wants to restrict its product to the cream of the broadcast world, that’s their business. They do so at either their own gain or their own peril.

  7. TPIRman says:

    There’s more to it than “welcome to capitalism.” Both leagues in question have been granted an anti-trust exemption — the Sports Broadcasting Act of 1961 — by Congress that allows them to, essentially, operate as trusts in regard to TV rights. A condition of those exemptions was that game broadcasts would be equally available to everybody in the country.

    With the DirecTV deals, members of Congress are questioning whether the leagues are violating the spirit of that deal. Congress is basically saying, hey, we granted you a monopoly with the expectation that you’d provide an entertaining pastime for the public, and now you’re screwing over said public for some extra cash.

    To put it another way, the leagues were granted an exemption because they were considered public trusts, but they’re acting more like private trusts. (Oversimplifying, but that’s the jist.)

    Gregg Easterbrook, A.K.A. Tuesday Morning Quarterback, has been covering this issue for years, with eloquence.

  8. Jozef says:

    As far as I know, the MLB receives some preferential legal treatment, such as the antitrust exemption. This makes the league comparable to a utility company, and thus the government is entitled to regulate it a little more than your average business. While it doesn’t explain why DirectTV was dragged into a hearing instead of MLB, I see here a good reason for breaking any exclusive deals between a legal monopoly and a TV programming provider.

  9. CaptainRoin says:

    ZOMG! It’s TV people! Why does this concern the senate? SO one dish has a channel someone else doesn’t big deal. I want VIOS and it’s not available in my area, maybe I should write a congressman and whine that I have to pay too much for my TV and internets.

  10. JRuiz47 says:

    As far as MLB.TV, I’m surprised to read so many complaints about it. I had it last season (and even re-upped this year to the premium service) because I liked it so much.

    Granted, the 400k isn’t what I’d see on TV, but considering my two favorite teams are nowhere near my local market, it was a great option.

  11. @CaptainRoin: While it may just be TV, Football is my religion (though this article is mainly about baseball the football argument is exactly the same.) Would you be pissed if you couldn’t go to church because of what cable provider you have? I am.

  12. Buran says:

    @simian-fever:

    More important things to worry about? You mean like failing to rein in Big Oil, failing to improve mileage standards for car/truck fleets, failing to regulate pollution meaningfully, taking away our ability to exercise our fair-use rights, doing nothing about organizations that wrongfully sue dead people, the sick, 7-year-old girls, disabled people, etc., failing to provide universal, affordable health care, failing to pass laws that REQUIRE us to get out of this war we’re stuck in, failing to pass laws that reverse the stupid and arbitrary rules that prevent vital stem cell research …

    THAT Congress? Oh, yeah, they have more important things to do. Except, they aren’t doing those either.

  13. mac-phisto says:

    relax folks, this is a senate subcommittee (not the entire senate) & this type of stuff is their job. to echo what paulcrist said, i too have directv for sunday ticket b/c the raiders are as far away as a pro team can be from here in connecticut. plus, they suck, so unless they’re on monday nite, i don’t get to see them.

    why this is a concern is b/c it limits consumers right to choose thru monopolistic interests. most consumers have 5 or more choices – antenna, local cable co., dish network, directv or no tv. i only have 2 (directv or no tv).

    *puts on pundit hat* chances are good that this is platforming for deregulation of the cable industry.

    & a query: where does YES stand in all of this?

  14. mac-phisto says:

    @Buran: none of those issues fall under the jurisdiction of the senate commerce subcommittee.

  15. thrillhouse says:

    Wow, I’m glad to see Sen. Kerry finally getting over that loss in ’04 and doing something really meaningful with his life. If I were one of his constituents or that of fellow sour-puss, Arlen Specter, I’d be madder than hell that he finds the best way to use his time and the power of his office is to get pissy about not getting to watch a few out-of-market baseball games on certain service providers. If there is some sort of issue of monopolies or unfair trade practices then get the DoJ or FTC or FCC involved. Go home, watch your Red Sox game, dry hump Theresa, and go to bed. On your way to work in the morning, swing by Wal-Mart and pick up a LIFE. Still wanna spend 3+ hours of your day watching a baseball game? Sign up for DirecTV. Its not the end of the world.

    Maybe next week, John can follow this up by requesting the release of the FBI files on Tupac’s assassination.

  16. katana says:

    @DougDascenzo:

    Don’t you have a conflict of interest here?

  17. Art Vandelay says:

    I’ll continue to espouse that this is a standard broadcast rights contract and in no way deviates from from the norm. The legislature is interested because it brings additional media time to them, usually from sources not interested in politics.


    In an answer to YES, that’s a sign of things to come. Leagues want their own channels, and a lot of teams are looking into their own networks. Same goes for college.

  18. AcilletaM says:

    Of course Senators will looking into this, it’s TV! You have to placate the masses if you want their votes otherwise Rome burns.

  19. JosephFinn says:

    Why does a story about Major League Baseball have a picture of a minor league player? ;)

  20. niccernicus says:

    @JosephFinn:

    Funniest thing I’ve read all day!

    Go Sox!

  21. synergy says:

    Platform for deregulation? I think it would be a platform for REGULATION. Then you can tell them what they should provide. Deregulation is what ends up creating a bunch of monopolies that charge you an arm and a leg for looking the wrong way.

  22. nequam says:

    If I can’t see an out-of-market on my TV at home, I go to a sports bar. It’s a win-win. Unless of course, my team loses. But, either way, I’m drinkin’ — which brings me back to win-win.

  23. @nequam: no sports bars here. sigh. lose-lose.

  24. iameleveneight says:

    @JosephFinn:

    Because lawt time I checked no one outside of Chicago gives a crap about the White Sox?

  25. JRuiz47 says:

    @JosephFinn:

    Because Sen. Kerry’s gonna blow out his shoulder patting himself on the back for bringing this before the subcommittee?

  26. nequam says:

    @Moonshine Mike: shit! truly sorry to hear that. it’s an outrage and possibly unamerican. no …. inhuman.

  27. pestie says:

    @homerjay: My feelings exactly. Of course, the politicians only care about what their constituents care about. If the best the American people can do is bitch about their TV offerings, maybe we get what we deserve. Still, it’s depressing to me.

  28. mconfoy says:

    You nailed it Johnny, its the anti-trust exemption that causes the issue. Amazing most people still don’t get it and whine about senators do this. If the legislature doesn’t then no one does. The courts are powerless, the FCC is fairly powerless thanks to the Supreme Court’s stupidity, in the 1920′s was it?, in granting baseball something no other sport has — an anti-trust exemption. Of course the NFL is only on Direct TV, but then you know that ahead of time. My parents switched to Dish because they could still get the MLB package there, they are on a contract and now they can’t? What Congress really needs to do, but won’t, is take the anti-trust exemption away and then see if baseball goes on like this. Of course Bud Seligs pressure Brewers wouldn’t stay in Milwaukee in that case, boo hooh.