Here’s a scenario that might play out real soon.
It’s late March and a baseball fan goes to order MLB Extra Innings through their local cable provider. The fan has trouble ordering the service and finally places a call to their cable company.
The cable company kindly informs the fan that MLB Extra Innings is not being offered anymore. The MLB Extra Innings package is being offered only through DirecTV, as part of the exclusive agreement the satellite provider and MLB struck earlier in the year.
The frustrated fan has options. A) MLB.tv’s broadband service, or B) miss out on seeing baseball games from across the country entirely, C) Order DirecTV, D) listen to games on XM Radio.
Earlier this month, Sports Business Journal reported that Major League Baseball and DirecTV were in “advanced talks to make the satellite television company the exclusive provider of MLB Extra Innings.” It’s a story I’ve been writing, researching and monitoring for a couple days now.
The news in Saturday’s New York Times (subscription required) is that MLB is close to announcing the official deal in which DirecTV will pay MLB $700 million over 7 years.
For Major League Baseball, it would mean shutting out an estimate 750,000 cable subscribers to the baseball package (according to SBJ), which airs as many as 60 games per week during the baseball season.
This move would come as a disappointing to baseball fans who have enjoyed watching baseball games nationwide. The DirecTV subscribers have had the MLB Extra Innings package option since 1996. The cable viewers, who have the MLB EI option since 2001, will be shut out of the package and will have to rely on baseball from the regional sports and national networks.
Fox baseball is airing 26 Saturday games this year, something that’s been needed for a while. In fact, this is the first year since 1989 that their will be a game of the week televised on the season’s first weekend.
ESPN will still air Sunday, Monday and Wednesday night games this year. TBS’ Sunday Game of the Week is still a year away. The one problem with these is that the freedom to watch the game of your choosing is hampered. Saturday Fox games result in blackouts to the Extra Innings baseball schedule, a result of the Fox’s agreement with MLB.
I can think of two reason’s MLB is doing this move
1) Extreme confidence that the mlb.tv package, which generated 1.3 million subscribers in 2005 (according to multichannel.com’s article), will have increased subscriptions in 2007. MLB.tv’s package is attractive to people since it’s a little more than half the price ($79.95) than the $170 Extra Innings package. For those who opt not to see these games through television for whatever reason, this package is ideal. Still, I’m not convinced the EI removal will result in people coming over to mlb.tv in mass quantities. The blackout policy won’t change one iota. I applaud anyone who has the dedication to watch these games from their computer.
2) The amount of money they’ll get from DirecTV will offset any losses to the Extra Innings removal from cable. $700 million sounds like enough! Don’t forget MLB’s revenues and attendance were at record highs in 2006.
I don’t know how many people will jump to DirecTV for simply the baseball package. Some people are faced with dish challenges such as location and condo/apartment restriction. I live in a condo that faces a courtyard and does not get clear access to the sun. Also, I have restrictions regarding satellite dishes. My wife and I also are quite happy with our cable provider and while EI is great, I won’t change cable options just for baseball. Other people can’t because they have their cable company providing bundled services-cable, internet and phone.
Personally, my baseball viewing will be okay. I have the Mid-Atlantic Sports Network with my cable service so I can watch the Nationals games all season. ESPN and Fox can fill in some of the gaps but there’s so much that will be missed.
The combination of a MLB’s frustrating blackout policy and the possible MLB/DirecTV move could force fans to tune out and drop out.
Monday morning, I wrote a piece about Washington considering options for the broadcast booth. While the story was obviously fake, I thought the Carrot Top option would be great.
Monday afternoon, the Nationals and the Mid-Atlantic Sports Network officially named someone whose curly hair was and is as noticeable as the orange-follicled comedian to join Bob Carpenter in the broadcast booth.
Continuing the tradition of bringing former Braves into the fold, Don Sutton was hired Monday to be the Nationals’ color analyst. The move is hardly a surprise as Sutton was considered the favorite for a couple months.
Sutton served as the Braves color analyst since 1989 and had a front row seat to the 14 straight division titles, five pennants and one World Series title.
Of course, Sutton and Nationals team president Stan Kasten go way back to the days when the Braves stunk. Not surprisingly, Sutton sees similarities between the two teams.
“I think there are a lot of similar circumstances — the franchise in a rebuilding mode and people at the top who want to do it right, and a manager that is easy to get excited about," Sutton told mlb.com. "I told one of my friends in Washington the other day, ‘I’ve seen this movie played somewhere else and it has a happy ending.’"
While the Nationals 2007 season could play out as a scary movie, Sutton will have a birds-eye of the action as the script unfolds starting March 3 as the Nationals hosts the Baltimore Orioles in Viera, Fla.
“The Nationals already have a leg up on defense," Sutton said. "But at the top of the Braves Minor League system back then, they had some pretty talented arms waiting to explode on the scene. That’s probably the unanswered question right now [about the Nationals] when you try to parallel those two franchises."
The mlb.com article reports that Sutton will have a busy workload in addition to his analyst duties, which includes 150 regular-season games. Among his duties will be working on the Nationals magazine show, making guest appearances on local radio shows as well as public appearances on behalf of the Nationals and the Mid-Atlantic Sports Network.
One of the highlights of the article mentioned Sutton possibly giving advice to some member of the Nationals’ pitching staff. Priceless. Um, just a shot in the dark here, I have a feeling that should be a regular happening especially since the color analyst is a 300-game winner and Hall of Fame pitcher.
Sutton replaces former major league outfielder Tom Paciorek, whose contract was not renewed after last season.
Editorial: Most broadcasters/color analysts have flaws/traits that drive some of us nuts. Sutton might have a couple. I’ll find out soon enough. Honestly, I think he’s a knowledgable person to have in the booth, someone who knows the workings of the pitcher-catcher relationship. The Nationals preference seemed to be hiring a former pitcher or catcher and they hired according to their plan.
One month until Nationals pitchers and catchers report.
One month until some sportscaster somewhere in the United States will make the following comment:
“The official start of spring is five weeks away but the unofficial start of the spring got underway today with the first day of spring training as pitchers and catchers for nine Major League Baseball squads reported to camps in Florida and Arizona.”
WASHINGTON— Washington announced Monday that they will let the fans decide who is in the broadcast booth this year.
“It’s the fans who watch so we thought we’d let the fans decide who they want to have in their living rooms,’’ said a Washington spokesperson.
There are five reported options will be the following:
a) Don Sutton and Bob Carpenter. Sutton has long been rumored to be the leading candidate to replace Tom Paciorek in the booth. However, the lack of a signed agreement between Sutton and Washington has everyone worried including fans. A clear vote of confidence by the fans would be a slam dunk for Sutton to come on board.
b) Bob Carpenter solo. The option of going old school with the one broadcaster would be a great outside-the-box-move. Sure, it could make for a boring broadcast, hearing the same voice for 3 hours or so. And maybe Carpenter’s lack of major league baseball experience could be a liability. However, Washington’s franchise would save some money with a one-person broadcast team.
c) Carpenter and John Riggins. Sure, Riggins hasn’t played professional baseball. He probably couldn’t name the starting lineup if spotted six names. But he’s John Riggins, Washingtonians will tune in for the name alone. I don’t care if he’s working for Triple X Radio in Washington. To see Riggins try to do color commentary on baseball would be a ratings bonanza. So the baseball people would be offended, big deal. There could be side wagers on how long it takes him to mention an old Redskins story (three minutes).
d) Carpenter and a small rotation of comedians. Wouldn’t you like to see Carpenter paired up with Carrot Top? I can see it now.
Carrot Top: There’s some racket going on in the press box (which is followed by him pulling out an actual racket and waving it around).
Carpenter: (audible groan)
Carpenter: Holy Mackerel, Zimmerman has another home run!
Carrot Top (pulls out another prop-a fake fish with holes in it). A holy mackerel you want, a holy mackerel you get!
Carpenter: (another audible groan)
How about Carpenter and Andrew Dice Clay:
Carpenter: The clock is about to strike 12
Dice Clay: Speaking of clocks about to strike (puffs a cigarette), I have this story. It starts with Hickory, Dickory, Dock
Carpenter (quickly interrupts). No thanks, Dice. We’ll save that for another time
Carpenter: The Nationals are having a tough time against the boys in blue tonight.
Dice: Maybe the boys in blue are getting paid off tonight.
Carpenter: Why would you say that?
Dice: Because they need the money. Oohhhhh!
Carpenter: Ah, jeez, Dice! Did you have to go there?
e) Carpenter and Paciorek. Nothing says rebellion more than hiring a broadcaster the franchise didn’t bring back. This would be my option just for the tension.
There is an extra level of suspense. Carpenter will not find out until 60 minutes before his first spring training telecast which option the fans chose.
The contest will start Jan. 22 and end Feb. 15-the first day pitchers and catchers for the report.
Fans can go to washingtonbaseballclub.com, click on the option that says Fake Broadcast Poll and cast your ballot. Vote early, vote late but vote often!
When contact, Carpenter was speechless.
“I’m literally speechless. I can’t conjugate a verb right now. Subject and verb agreement? Forget it,” said the broadcaster.
This fake story was subject to approval by no one. Restrictions may apply. Void everywhere.
Pressbox has a story about the in-game opportunity during 2007 Nationals and Orioles games to e-mail the announcers with questions.
The story states the following:
Selected Orioles and Nationals, players as well as managers and coaches, will wear a small microphone during games. However, the live commentary will be limited by MLB’s rules, executive producer Chris Glass said.
The manager will answer questions from the announcers once during the game, Glass said, probably around the fifth inning. And so will one player, possibly the pitcher for the next game or someone who played well the night before. The idea is to be timely without being intrusive — and enough comments gleaned from certain situations during games could make for lively and in-depth features later on.
The in-game interviews are nothing new, heck; ESPN featured them during the season. Fox had them during the playoffs I recall. I don’t like it when these interviews take away from the game itself. Last thing I want to see is an in-game interview with a skipper while someone is hitting a live home run. That annoys me. Also annoying is obvious, bland answers to questions that if anyone is watching the game and has a pulse knows what’s going on at that moment. Sorry for the run-on sentence.
I really don’t expect a fan’s e-mail rant to hit the air. I imagine someone is screening these e-mails and determining which e-mails get read on the air.
Example of e-mails that won’t make it
-Why did Manny Acta making that bone-headed move? He’s an idiot
-Why do the Nationals play so bad?
-Why is the RFK Stadium food so horrible?
-Why don’t the Nats spend any money on talent?
-Why doesn’t Jim Bowden trade for another former Red? Any Red?
-When did MLB starting hiring visually impaired umpires?
Example of e-mails that will make it
-How is the new stadium coming along?
-What is Chad Cordero’s pregame ritual?
-What is an area of the Nationals game that you (the announcers) think needs improvement?
-How come so-and-so stopped using the 2 strike change-up instead opting for a low and away fastball against a good fastball hitter? Alright, that might not make it.
What’s interesting is the amount of money MASN will pay the teams in rights fees for 2007 ($26 million) and 2008 ($28 million). $26 million to the Nationals in right fees. I wish that number was in the $40 million dollar range so I can let loose with the whole payroll is lower than the right fees jokes!
According to the story, the estimated 320 games MASN will carry include spring training. And there is an arrangement for the scads of occasions when the Orioles and Nationals either play at the same time or overlap. Scads? Huh? Two East Coast teams playing at the same time? Doesn’t that happen quite often even if the two teams are on the road? Sure it won’t happen 162 times but it won’t happen once or twice either. The O’s and Nats play most of their games in the Eastern Time Zone-just a wild guess-so I can conclude that several games will overlap.
And MASN has a plus-sized answer to the problem. The story says MASN has contracted with all its cable partners to create a separate channel, MASN-Plus, when necessary. Each channel will have a crawl at the bottom of the picture telling viewers where the other game is located. Not a penny will be added to cable bills for the additional channel, MASN said. How generous considering that MASN was added to some cable networks I believe for an extra $2 a month.
One side note in the Pressbox story: Check out the misspelling of Washington Capitols unless the team’s nickname changed from als to ols. Then in that case, I’m a dolt.
Is Don Sutton joining the broadcast team or not? This story has stayed around much longer than it should have.
It’s 43 more days to the start of Spring Training and 89 days to the season opener. Can you tell I’m bored with winter? There’s not even a hint of snow in Northern Virginia.