Jim & Bob's Palatial Baseball Blog

Friday, February 09, 2007

Mr. Peabody, He Isn’t

The Trib’s Ed Sherman is the latest to check in with a typically breathless piece on evil MLB’s evil exclusive evil deal with evil DirecTV (or should I say DirecTeVil?) for its oh-so-good Extra Innings package.

Sherman hits the highlights in his lead grafs:

Major League Baseball, which has an infinite ability to infuriate fans, is about to do it again.

As early as next week, Commissioner Bud Selig will announce baseball has cut a seven-year, $700 million deal with DirecTV to place its Extra Innings exclusively on the satellite carrier.

The package features as many as 60 out-of-market games per week; the 2006 price was $179 for the season.

Previously, Extra Innings had been available in 75 million homes through cable, the Dish Network or DirecTV. Now only DirecTV's 15 million subscribers will be able to gain access to all-baseball-all-the-time.
The rest of the bit carries on in this vein, blah-blah-blah. I regretted spending five minutes of my lunch time reading it until I came to the penultimate paragraph:

Nothing is forever, but baseball just seems bent on reducing access. The decision seems to follow the same game plan that says let's put all the World Series games at night so kids can't see them. Growing the game doesn't seem to be part of the equation.

Ah, the old “Who will think of the children?” argument! Works for steroids, but can it work for pay-per-view?

Sadly, no.

Jim and I were discussing this topic just the other day, and he made a good point. Most fans (those of casual-to-average fannishness, a pretty big majority) aren’t going to spend the $179 to get 60 games a week. Because even though they like baseball, they don’t like it that much.

Hell, even I’m not all that interested in getting the package, and I’m a completely besotted baseball geek. But my antipathy to pay-per-view is that (a) I’m a tightwad and (b) I barely have enough time to listen to the Cubs, let alone the other fourteen games that might be going on that day.

No, the real market for Extra Innings is sports bars and uber-geeks who like nothing more than spending a beautiful summer day inside watching TV.

Sherman writes in his column that there were 500,000 Extra Innings subscribers last year. Attendance at Major League games last year was about 74 million. Figure out the ratio of subscribers to attendees, and then try to convince me that fans of average passion for baseball are beating down the doors to sign up for the package so their kids will never again miss a Padres game.

And the World Series night game argument doesn’t fly, either. Yeah, it’s a drag that all the games are at night. But if they play those Monday through Friday games during the day, those poor children Sherman is so worried about because they can’t watch the games at night still won’t be able to watch the games.

Where I live, October is a school month. And despite the nostalgic blather of the media, most teachers don’t take too kindly to the kids sneaking radios into the class so they can hear the game.

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