Monday, April 02, 2007

Enough Already: New York Times Coverage of "Extra Innings" Flap Both Exhaustive and Myopic

Richard Sandomir & Co. Prove There Is Such A Thing As Over-Covering A Story
It's not that New York Times sports business writer Richard Sandomir (left) hasn't written about other topics in the last two months about the flap between Major League Baseball and cable operators over the Extra Innings package. It just seems that way.
And all that ink about a service that affects about 180,000 cable subscribers -- across the country. That's chicken feed in the TV universe, even if the dollars being talked about aren't.
For those of you not scoring at home, the story so far: MLB used to sell Extra Innings, which allows fans who pay $180 or so to watch just about any game they want, to both cable and satellite operators. But this year, the league cut a deal with DirecTV, which offered up $700 million over seven years for exclusive access, while also offering to carry a new baseball channel in 2009. Not so coincidentally, DirecTV also has a 20 percent stake in the channel.
The cable titans cried foul, and offered to match the DirecTV offer, but balked at carrying the baseball channel. So, despite attempts by no less than John Kerry to mediate, Extra Innings is off cable for now, depriving far-flung fans from seeing their teams, unless they, conveniently, subscribe to the package online.
Regardless of the merits of the deal, this dispute has been covered way too aggressively in the Times. Even business columnist Joe Nocera felt compelled to chime in on Saturday and tripped over his own logic while slamming MLB.

Nice going, fellas. The N.F.L. would never do anything this dumb. Of course, that’s one of the big differences between pro football and pro baseball. The football guys actually know how to run their business with some intelligence.

Only thing: the NFL already does something just like this. It has Sunday Ticket, its own version of Extra Innings, which it also sells exclusively --- to DirecTV, which shells out $700 million a year for the privilege.
However, by Nocera's reckoning, that would ostensibly be a "dumb" thing to do, as you keep Sunday Ticket off cable, thereby depriving the cash-crazy league with even more revenue. And given the hassle the NFL has had getting its channel onto many cable system, that should speak volumes.
It has nothing to do with intelligence, only money. And both MLB and the NFL are only trying to suck up as much as they can. That's not dumb. That's business.

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