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Out of Luck

Readers hacked off about an MLB-DirecTV alliance

Posted: Friday January 26, 2007 3:55PM; Updated: Friday January 26, 2007 3:55PM
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Want to see David Ortiz balance himself on one foot? Unless you live in New England or have DirecTV, you're out of luck.
Want to see David Ortiz balance himself on one foot? Unless you live in New England or have DirecTV, you're out of luck.
Gail Oskin/WireImage

Let's all just take a deep breath now, put down the pitchforks and the torches and get a couple of facts straight about Major League Baseball's move to sell exclusive rights to its Extra Innings package of out-of-market games to DirecTV:

If it happens -- and, yeah, it's still headed that way -- this won't affect anyone's ability to watch hometown teams at all. Those games are generally blacked out on Extra Innings anyway because they're available on local or regional sports channels.

If you want to switch over to DirecTV, don't let anyone tell you that you're not allowed to put up a satellite dish because it's against some rule or another. I mean, dishes aren't real pretty, no matter how much you dress them up. But if you can get a signal, you're entitled to it, generally speaking, according to the Federal Communications Commission. (And thanks to all who provided that link.)

If you can't get a signal from DirecTV ... well, yeah, you're out of luck.

If you have a bundle of services from your local cable provider (phone, Internet, TV, that kind of thing) and don't want to, or can't, switch to DirecTV... yeah, that's tough.

If you're otherwise locked into a long-term agreement with the cable company or Dish Network ... well, good luck trying to get out of that.

If DirecTV isn't an option, yes, there are ways to get out-of-market games through MLB.TV (the Internet version of Extra Innings) from your computer to your television screen. But MLB.TV isn't meant for the big screen, so when it gets there, it's not very good quality.

I'll tell you, this whole issue has a lot of people pretty hacked off. My inbox was up to its header in outraged e-mails all week long.

Let me share a few ...

What I don't get is, as broadcast technology advances, why does the league continually make it harder and harder to get one's favorite team's games? I live in an apartment building that doesn't allow DirecTV. Now, after sticking faithfully by my Tigers with MLB Extra Innings subscriptions for the past six years -- their worst years in history -- I can't watch a Tigers game unless it's in a tiny, fuzzy picture on my PC or -- gasp -- if the White Sox's Hawk Harrelson is doing the play-by-play! Does anyone have a handgun I can borrow? 
 -- David Sparks, Chicago

David, you hit on a sore spot for many. (Not Hawk, the technology thing.) I think what has many people upset is the loss of choice. Ten years ago, watching out-of-market games was a practical impossibility. Thanks to technology and Extra Innings, it became a reality. Now, it's getting snatched away. Oh, Major League Baseball, you big tease, you.

It would help, of course, if MLB at least pretended it cared a little. But, as one e-mailer found out, it's hard to get some people to listen.

I've spent the day, in between work, trying to get some answers. I started by phoning MLB, where I was transferred to their Public Relations voicemail. Still waiting for a response from them. Then I called MLB Advanced Media's VP of Corporate Communications, who did seem to listen to me, though his job is to sell me MLB.TV. By the way, I've always subscribed to that, too, as a last resort backup which, unfortunately, has never worked very well with our broadband connection. But this VP did give me another number to call, supposedly in the Commissioner's Office. I tried it but was left extremely frustrated by my attempt to register my complaint with the surname-less "Vinny," who also informed me that the Commish's office doesn't have an e-mail address, and that instead I have to use snail mail to communicate with the powers that be. Well, my sadness had now been transformed to full-blown anger, but I continued my search for answers, first by e-mailing and attempting to speak with someone at InDemand. No response yet from them either. Finally I did e-mail my cable provider, Comcast, but just the New England region [couldn't find an easy way to get through to Comcast corporate HQ], and they did write back telling me that they hadn't heard anything about this DirecTV exclusive deal, but should something like that happen, I should receive a notice included with my monthly bill.  
-- Jeanette Bottone, Wellesley, Mass.

As a public service, I'll include some contact information for MLB at the bottom of the column. Don't tell them where you got it, though.

[Baseball] won't be happy until they have squeezed every last nickel from the same people that have already been separated from their paychecks by parking, concessions and bobbleheads.
-- Mark Pierce, Modesto, Calif.

Unfortunately, Mark, it seems that way.

First the NFL decided to put games on the stupid NFL Network. Now MLB barters a deal with a satellite provider. It's no longer what the customer wants, when he wants it. It's the customer being told what he wants and how he needs to get it. As the Guinness commercial says ... "Brilliant!" 
-- Barry Armstrong, Burlington, Mass.



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