You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

In Demand strikes out with MLB

Baseball, cable talks go into Extra Innings

Cable TV and Major League Baseball are firing beanballs at each other, and members of Congress and federal regulators may end up as the umpires.

Cable TV’s negotiating agent In Demand started the latest dust-up with Major League Baseball on Wednesday by announcing in a statement that it will offer to renew MLB’s out-of-market games “on the same terms” as DirecTV.

“In Demand’s strategy of negotiation by misleading press release is a failed one,” snapped Tim Brosnan, MLB’s executive VP for business.

Fuming, Rob Jacobson, president and CEO of In Demand, said, “By rejecting this matching offer, MLB has proven it never intended for In Demand to have a fair and equal opportunity to bid for Extra Innings.”

Extra Innings is the package of out-of-market baseball games, and what makes these talks between cable TV and baseball significant is that up to 200,000 cable subscribers will lose the chance to buy the games if DirecTV ends up making an exclusive deal with MLB, which would begin next month.

Fan deprivation doesn’t sit well with D.C.-based consumer groups and political figures such as Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.), who have already begun to denounce negotiations that would keep In Demand from wide circulation.

MLB gave In Demand a deadline of March 31 to agree to an offer that, in effect, asks cable TV to 1) pay about $66 million a year for seven years to continue carrying “Extra Innings” and 2) take a new MLB Network on 80% of cable’s base of digital subscribers. The MLB Network would kick off in 2009; cable TV has about 32 million digital subs.

But MLB’s Brosnan said In Demand’s claim of meeting MLB’s terms falls well short of reality. In Demand will actually pay a license fee based on the number of digital subscribers who pay the $179 a year to get “Extra Innings.”

That clause doesn’t work for baseball because DirecTV has done a better job of marketing “Extra Innings” than individual cable operators. As a result, instead of paying $66 million a year, cable TV could end up paying MLB less than $50 million. DirecTV also would pony up about $50 million a year in this scenario, even though cable has more than double the number of digital subs compared with DirecTV. To baseball, that’s unfair to DirecTV.

And with the MLB Network, baseball said the In Demand numbers are also faulty. In its release, In Demand said it would funnel the MLB Channel to the percentage of subs DirecTV reaches. But baseball said that’s disingenuous: The DirecTV deal is based on 80% of the satcaster’s sub base, putting the total at 15 million or so. By contrast, the digital base of cable TV, in today’s numbers, would come to about 32 million. Eighty percent of 32 million comes to about 25 million.

The bottom line of this clash is that In Demand is setting the stage to blame baseball for depriving cable subs of Extra Innings if no deal is struck by March 31. For its part, baseball is trying to blame In Demand for not meeting the terms of MLB’s contract with DirecTV, which would get exclusive rights to Extra Innings for seven years, starting in April.

On Tuesday, Bob DuPuy, president and chief operating officer of MLB, and In Demand’s Jacobson will be the key witnesses at a U.S. Senate Commerce Committee hearing in Washington on the subject “Exclusive Sports Programming: Examining Competition and Consumer Choice.”

With baseball and cable TV at each other’s throats, the room should be packed.

More TV

  • WGA Agents Contract Tug of War

    Showrunners, Screenwriters Back WGA in Agency Battle, Sides to Meet Again Tuesday

    More than 750 showrunners and screenwriters have backed the WGA’s battle against talent agencies taking packaging fees and other changes to the rules governing the business relationship between agents and writers. The letter of support issued Saturday is significant because of the immense clout showrunners and prominent screenwriters possess in Hollywood. Several showrunners had recently [...]

  • Norman Reedus and Ryan Hurst'The Walking

    Norman Reedus on 'The Walking Dead' Without Andrew Lincoln: 'He's With Me Every Day'

    After saying goodbye to most of the original cast on “The Walking Dead,” Norman Reedus still feels his former co-stars with him during each episode. “I’ve seen so many people come and go,” he said during a “Walking Dead” panel on Friday at PaleyFest. “Right now on the show, the ghosts of all those guys [...]

  • Series Mania: De Mensen, Reel One

    Series Mania: First Details on Co-Pro Pitching Project 'Capturing Big Mouth' (EXCLUSIVE)

    LILLE, France — Belgian production company De Mensen, which has just been acquired by France’s Newen, has teamed with Reel One Entertainment on a new cross-continental thriller series, “Capturing Big Mouth. The series will be pitched Monday at this year’s Series Mania Forum Co-pro Pitching section. It chronicles the unlikely rise and eventual fall of [...]

  • Daily Show Viacom

    Viacom, DirecTV Make Progress in Contract Talks, No Blackout After Deadline Passes

    UPDATED: Viacom and DirecTV executives went down to the wire Friday on a combative contract renewal negotiation with high stakes for both sides. The companies stayed in talks past the midnight Eastern contract expiration and the channels stayed up on AT&T’s platforms. Sources indicated early Saturday that the threat of a blackout had been averted. [...]

  • ABBY'S -- "Pilot" Episode 101 --

    TV Review: 'Abby's' Starring Natalie Morales

    “Abby’s,” NBC’s new comedy about a cranky bartender (Natalie Morales) and her inner circle of regulars, is aware of the inevitable “Cheers” comparisons. Created by “New Girl” writer Josh Malmuth and executive produced by uber-producer (and unabashed “Cheers” superfan) Mike Schur, “Abby’s” therefore makes a few key choices in order to differentiate itself as its [...]

  • Ryan Murphy Walk of Fame

    TV News Roundup: Netflix Sets Premiere Date for Ryan Murphy's 'The Politician'

    In today’s roundup, Netflix announces the premiere date for Ryan Murphy’s “The Politician” series, and Kristin Cavallari will host “Paradise Hotel” on Fox.  DATES Reality star Kristin Cavallari will host Fox’s reboot of “Paradise Hotel,” an unscripted dating show in which a group of singles will check into a tropical resort and compete to check [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content