The news today was that the MLB / DirecTV deal was finalized.
Refusing to even give it a glimpse, I braced for a season of late-night box-score reading.
Naturally, I gave in, and searched for a news report about the deal. Couldn’t find it on NYT, didn’t see it quickly enough on ESPN.COM. What the hell, let’s just get it straight from the horse’s mouth.
From an MLB.COM Press Release:
Major League Baseball and DIRECTV, the nation’s leading satellite provider, today announced a seven-year agreement that continues carriage rights to the MLB EXTRA INNINGS subscription package of out-of-market games and includes the launch of the MLB Channel as part of DIRECTV’s basic package. Included within the agreement, DIRECTV will be a minority partner in the MLB Channel, and will work with MLB to develop the network, which will launch in 2009.
Additionally, in keeping with MLB’s desire to provide as much MLB programming to as many baseball fans as possible, MLB and DIRECTV have agreed to include a provision that allows MLB EXTRA INNINGS to be offered to other incumbents – In Demand and DISH Network – at consistent rates and carriage requirements with a deal to be concluded before the baseball season begins. The provision also requires the incumbents to agree to carriage rights to the MLB Channel proportionally equivalent to DIRECTV’s commitment. Should the incumbents decide not to match DIRECTV’s commitment, the MLB EXTRA INNINGS package will be exclusive to DIRECTV. All out of market games continue to be available on MLB.com.
Is that right? Am I reading correctly? Does that say what I think it says?
Well, after carefully examining the press release, what I think I got out of it is that both DirecTV and MLB will include some kind of provision in their deal that invites In Demand and Dish to carry the Extra Innings package at the same rate DirecTV decides to set and if they agree to carry the new MLB channel.
This means there will be a new negotiation round that has to conclude before the season starts.
If In Demand and/or Dish do not match DirecTV’s “commitment” (think boatloads of cash), or do not agree to carry the channel, only then will the deal be exclusive.
Smart move, Selig, now you’ve turned the deal completely on its head. Not only do you open the whole thing up, but you then up the ante and put In Demand and Dish on the spot for not wanting to carry the MLB channel. So the pressure’s on them now.
From the AP:
The president of one of those providers, iN Demand’s Robert Jacobson, immediately said those terms were impossible for his company to agree to and called it a “de facto exclusive deal.”
UPDATE 03/09 11:42 a.m.: The fallout has begun.
- Baseball Bends on TV Deal; But Doubts Linger – [nytimes.com]
- MLB Pretends It Cares, A Little, Barely – [deadspin.com]
- The Real Deal on “Extra Innings” – [CNBC]