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Friday, March 2, 2007
DirectTV acknowledges agreement with baseball in letter, then says deal not final

Associated Press

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 public-relations firm.

"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 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.