MLB Dismisses Cable’s Extra Innings Offer

Mar 21, 2007  •  Post A Comment

Major League Baseball called the cable industry’s offer to carry its Extra Innings out-of-market game package low and outside.

“In spite of their public comments, the response falls short of nearly all of the material conditions,” Bob DuPuy, MLB president and chief operating officer, said in a statement Wednesday.

“By rejecting this matching offer, MLB has proven it never intended for In Demand to have a fair and equal opportunity to bid for Extra Innings,” countered Robert Jacobson, president of In Demand Networks, which is owned by Comcast, Time Warner Cable and Cox and buys pay-per-view and video-on-demand programming for cable operators.

The refusal of the cable offer is likely to be discussed next week at congressional hearings on sports issues.

In Demand earlier Wednesday made an offer that it said matches DirecTV’s offer to carry Extra Innings and a new cable baseball channel.

DirecTV and MLB wanted to do an exclusive deal for Extra Innings at $100 million a year, but reconsidered after a flurry of complaints about the 200,000 current cable subscribers who would lose the package if it moved to satellite only.

DirecTV and MLB signed a two-pronged deal with MLB, paying $100 million a year for the exclusive and about half that for a non-exclusive package.

As part of the deal, DirecTV agreed to carry a new MLB cable channel to all of its subscribers. DirecTV also will own part of the channel.

In Demand said it would pay the same terms as DirecTV for Extra Innings. It also will put the Baseball Channel in the same number of homes at DirecTV does at launch in 2009.

One difference between the proposals appears to hang on whether the same number of subscribers is the same as the same proportion of subscribers between the two deals. Mr. DuPuy also said In Demand falls short of paying its share of the rights fees for Extra Innings.

Elected officials, led by Sen. John Kerry, D-Mass., who urged the FCC to look into the deal, may not think the difference is significant enough to merit letting some viewers lose their ability to pay to see games not normally televised where they live.

“MLB must sit down with the carriers and come to an agreement that ensures all fans continue to have access to baseball as we begin the 2007 season,” Sen. Kerry said in a statement Wednesday. “I want to see an agreement that is good for fans and consumers, and time is short. I look forward to exploring these issues at our hearing on March 27.”

The cable offer also would mean the Baseball Channel would launch with a record number of subscribers.

“This offer meets all the conditions set forth by MLB last week,” said Mr. Jacobson of In Demand. “Throughout this entire process, our goal has always been to respect the wishes of baseball fans who currently subscribe to Extra Innings through their local cable provider, and we stand ready to execute an agreement before the beginning of the baseball season,” which is April 2.

Mr. DuPuy said baseball remains open to a making a deal with In Demand and EchoStar, which also carried Extra Innings last season. The deadline remains March 31, just before Opening Day.

EchoStar had no comment.

DirecTV could not be reached for comment.

(Editor: Horowitz)