In an interesting twist to the Extra Innings / DirecTV deal, cable may opt to go the online route, as opposed to trying to match DirecTV’s offer of placing the MLB Channel on the basic tier.
To compete, iN Demand may take an interesting side route to keep from losing customers to DirecTV: offer free or deeply discounted access to MLB.TV, the MLBAM controlled online version of Extra Innings.
As reported today by John Ourand and Eric Fisher of the Sports Business Journal:
This strategy would see cable operators seek to buy subscriptions to the full season of online programming from MLB Advanced Media and offer them to their former Extra Innings subscribers, who would then be able to watch the out-of-market games online.
If cable pursues this path, it would hope that the offering would mollify angry subscribers who are no longer able to subscribe to the out-of-market package.
Such a tactic would surely raise the ire of MLB through MLB Advanced Media. While Ourand and Fisher could not get anyone on record, they did report that a senior MLB official said “we will not allow any of our assets to be used to undermine this deal” through an effort such as bulk buying of MLB.TV subscriptions.
In another interesting twist, there is the possibility that the operators would stall their response to the MLB/DirecTV deal in the hopes of thwarting a marketing campaign. Already DirecTV CEO Chase Carey has made mention that marketing the package will be difficult by presenting the incumbents with a window of the end of the month in which to respond.
“There’s a degree of short-term uncertainty — this agreement has a period where it’s not clear how these rights end up in terms of exclusive versus nonexclusive rights,” Carey said. “It creates some short-term issues as to how we develop the properties around it, but we’ll work through that.”
With the season at hand, this author is getting besieged with emails asking when the deal will be in place so that a decision can be made to jump to DirecTV or stay put. The problem is… you may not know until the first pitch on Opening Day is thrown out. With that in mind, consider this… Here’s how DirecTV is currently advertising the Extra Innings package. Look at the dates on the deal (emphasis mine):
Get MLB EXTRA INNINGS now for just 4 payments of $39.99 — a savings of $40 off the regular season price!
(Must order DIRECTV service by 4/7/07 and activate by 4/15/07)