I couldn't believe the story when I first read it in the New York Post. Then again, you normally can't believe anything in the New York Post. But columnist Phil Mushnick brought my attention to a dastardly deed major league owners are about to pull on you. Major League Baseball, despite steroid allegations and belief by most fans that winning only happens if your team spends $100 million on payroll, has experienced growth in attendance and popularity during the past several years. In thanks to you, MLB is about to crap all over that fanbase.
One of the biggest reasons why MLB has grown in popularity is the MLB Extra Innings package. Available since 2002, MLB Extra Innings allows fans to watch up to ten games at once via satellite or digital cable. The package is a bit pricey at about $175, but it is well worth it to baseball fans who just want to watch every team or their favorite team when they no longer live in that city.
According to the New York Times, MLB is close to announcing a deal where MLB Extra Innings will be offered EXCLUSIVELY to DirectTV beginning this spring.
Talk about killing the goose that laid the golden egg.
I love the MLB Extra Innings package. I love TELLING people to buy it. I think it's a great deal for several reasons. First, I simply love baseball. I like watching a game other than the Rays game or our bi-weekly Red Sox/Yankees series getting shoved down our throats. Being a history buff, I love looking at the out-of-town ballparks and seeing rivalries that I can't always see with network or regional cable coverage. Being a sports broadcaster, I love seeing how other teams handle their broadcasts in other markets. I love listening to legendary voices like Vin Scully make a ho-hum game sound exciting. I like seeing the exciting plays during a game, and not during a 18-second recap on ESPN News. Finally, I love MLB Extra Innings simply because it's better than most of the garbage network TV has to offer during the summer. Dancing with the Stars?!? Are you kidding me? I'd rather watch the Royals and Indians any day over that mess.
So why would MLB move its very successful Extra Innings package from the 75 million cable subscribers to a DirectTV audience that is 1/5 of that audience? Well, this may come as a surprise to you, but it's all about... MONEY! Even though millions of people pay $175 every summer religiously to watch the out-of-market games Extra Innings offers, MLB just can't keep its eyes off a seven-year deal worth $700 million overall. DirectTV would also be the creator of the new MLB channel, but that's nothing since the main draw to Extra Innings is the games.
Do the math. That's $100 million per year, divided by 30 teams comes out to $3.3 million per year, per team. So for slightly more than a one-year deal for Mark Hendrickson, MLB has said, "Bend over if you want to watch us."
Thanks, but I'll pass. And I have a feeling millions more will as well if this deal does indeed happen.
First and foremost, not everybody can have a satellite dish at their home. Some apartment complexes and condo units don't allow them. Mine does, but a quick look out my south-facing windows has a cluster of trees in the way of my satellite beam. Another quick look out the window shows cloudy skies and thunderstorms. Hmmmm... I think that happens often in the summer around here.
Second, not everybody WANTS to switch to satellite. Bright House cable is far from my best friend, but after setting up cable, phone, and internet for my new apartment three weeks ago, I'm not about to rip out the cable to put in a dish. Despite the claims satellite is better than cable, and no matter how much people hate the cable companies, people are also set in their ways. Why spend hundreds of dollars to install and receive programming from satellite when you already have it from cable? Just to watch the Twins and A's in a matinee game?
Finally, despite MLB and DirectTV's wishes, millions of Dish Network subscribers won't suddenly switch teams. Like Coke vs. Pepsi, each satellite subscriber has their own reason for feeling connected to their satellite provider.
I think the biggest problem with this whole idea, other than it stinks as a hasty money grab, is MLB thinks it is the king of the world when it comes to sports. I hate to inform them this, but they're wrong. Yes baseball is as American as mom and apple pie, and people are still showing up in droves to watch their favorite team even if amphetamines are in every coffee pot in a big league lockerroom, but MLB's ego is getting a bit too big. The reason why the NFL can get $700 million PER YEAR with DirectTV is because Americans love football. It doesn't matter if their home team is 3-8 come December, they still want to watch every game offered as the playoff push comes. In baseball, not so much. Even though there have been some exciting playoff races, and great rivalries born in the past five seasons MLB Extra Innings has been around, most people can fall back on typical summer things to do other than subscribing to DirectTV to see their favorite teams.
Even though Extra Innings will likely go away to us cable subscribers, I can live without it. I'll just watch more Rays games, new episodes of "Dirty Jobs" and "Mythbusters", and the occasional Fox telecast which always seems to feature the Yankees, Red Sox, Cubs, Braves, and Mets for some reason. At least I won't have to listen to Joe Buck hump Horacio Ramirez's leg again since he's playing for the Mariners now.
I won't spend more money to switch to satellite, I won't spend more money to hover over my computer and watch a game on MLB.TV. MLB, you had the perfect gift to fans for a reasonable price, and now you're going to take it away. And by doing so, you are showing your fans you really don't care about anything but money.
So go ahead and count your extra few million dollars, something you have done well ever since the expansion of 1961. To quote the late great Bill Veeck, "It is sometimes amazing how completely you can be carried away by your own fond estimate of your own strength."