Baseball Sends DirecTV Deal Into Extra Innings
After months of rancor, Major League Baseball’s controversial deal with DirecTV to grant the satellite provider exclusive rights to out-of-market regular season games was signed on Thursday. But a provision included that will allow competing providers to bid for the services for three more weeks gives new truth to Yogi Berra’s old baseball maxim that “it ain’t over ‘til it’s over.”
The deal, which is for seven years and about $100 million per year, gives DirecTV nearly exclusive rights to the MLB Extra Innings package, which carries nearly every baseball game played in every city. But in a surprise move aimed at mollifying fan and government opposition, MLB and DirecTV included a provision which will allow competing providers who currently carry Extra Innings to keep the package if they can reach agreement with baseball on terms which match what DirecTV paid. DirecTV exclusivity would likely lead to a big surge in new subscribers, and dish purchases.
The deal will give the cable-based InDemand and satellite-based DishNetwork until March 31 to come up with a competing offer. If the offer is not matched, MLB will go with DirecTV exclusively when the season starts in April. Critics were not convinced; the president of InDemand said in a statement that the new deal is “de facto exclusive” and based on conditions that are “impossible for cable and [DishNetwork] to meet.”