- The Washington Times - Monday, March 26, 2007

Members of the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation tomorrow plan to question officials from Major League Baseball and DirecTV over their potentially exclusive deal involving the league’s “Extra Innings” package of out-of-market games. Senator John Kerry, Massachusetts Democrat, arranged a quick and noisy conference call this afternoon with reporters, in which he said that he feared the league was shutting out non-DirecTV subscribers in the name of profit.

“It’s an attempt to corner the market and limit fans,” he said. “And I’m concerned about that.”

MLB and DirecTV announced a deal involving Extra Innings earlier this month, and the league gave until March 31 for other cable and satellite companies to match the terms. Kerry said he was concerned that Extra Innings would end up exclusively on DirecTV, possibly shutting out millions of people who had previously received the service through their cable company or Dish Network. Extra Innings allows fans to watch games involving teams located outside their home markets, allowing a Boston native living in Phoenix, for instance, to watch Red Sox games.

“I think people should be able to get [the games] of their team,” Kerry said. “Red Sox Nation is affected. I’ve heard from people who feel the same way about fans of the Cardinals and Cubs. Access to our national pastime and sporting contests is an important part of the fabric of American life.”

Kerry acknowledged that an exclusive deal between MLB and DirecTV is “probably legal,” but he wanted to ensure that other cable and satellite providers had a reasonable and fair chance to match DirecTV’s terms. Kerry earlier this month asked the Federal Communications Commission to investigate the deal, and the FCC said it would look into the matter. But Kerry said he has not heard from the FCC since that initial correspondence.

MLB President Bob DuPuy is scheduled to testify tomorrow along with DirecTV CEO Chase Carey, Echostar President Carl Vogel, inDemand President Rob Jacobson and Penn State law professor Stephen Ross.

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