Friday, March 2, 2007
DirectTV acknowledges agreement with baseball in letter, then says deal not final
NEW YORK -- DirecTV acknowledged an agreement with Major
League Baseball to become the sole television distributor of the
sport's out-of-market package in a letter to the Federal
Communications Commission, saying the deal will benefit consumers.
While the seven-page letter from DirecTV president Chase Carey
to the FCC on Friday referred in the second paragraph to
"DirecTV's agreement," company spokesman Robert Mercer said later
that the letter was incorrect.
"The letter should have said proposed agreement. There is no
agreement as yet," Mercer said.
Carey's letter was released by Edelman, the company's
"Consumers will receive a better product, with more content and
more features," Carey said in the letter.
The package also has been available on cable television in
recent seasons through iNDemand but will be available solely on
DirecTV and MLB.com under the new agreement. Sen. John Kerry,
D-Mass., released a letter last month disclosing that the FCC was
investigating the deal.
"MLB's proposed deal with Direct TV for the Extra Innings
package is stunning in its disregard for baseball fans," iNDemand
president Robert Jacobsen said in a statement. "The cable industry
offered MLB a non-exclusive deal -- with better overall terms than
the DirecTV offer -- that would allow baseball fans across the
country to watch their favorite teams regardless of whether they
were a satellite, cable or telephone customer."
Carey said in his letter that an estimated 5,000 subscribers to
the Extra Innings package would not have access to DirecTV, and he
said there were 230,000 subscribers to the package last year
outside of DirecTV. He also said DirecTV would make The Baseball
Channel available when the network launches in 2009.
"Congress did not prohibit all exclusive arrangements," Carey
wrote. "It only restricted exclusive arrangements that were the
product of market power abuses -- those between dominant cable
operators and cable-owned programmers."
Bob DuPuy, baseball's chief operating officer, declined comment.