- The Washington Times - Friday, March 30, 2007

Commissioner Bud Selig yesterday again defended Major League Baseball’s agreement with DirecTV involving baseball’s package of out-of-market games — and got verbal support from NBA commissioner David Stern.

Speaking at a panel discussion before members of the American Society of News Editors, Selig said the deal with DirecTV involving the “Extra Innings” games would not shut out baseball fans who had paid for the package on other cable and satellite providers in the past.

“I agonized over this because obviously the objective is to get our product to as many people as possible,” Selig said. “The ‘Extra Innings’ package had 500,000 viewers last year, and 270,000 got it through DirecTV. A careful analysis of the remaining people shows that very few people [couldn’t] switch to DirecTV to get it.”

Selig stressed that competing cable providers had been offered the chance to match DirecTV’s terms by the end of the month and were in discussions with MLB this week.

The panel discussion also included Stern, Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones and NASCAR president and CEO Brian France. When asked about baseball’s deal with DirecTV, Stern criticized members of Congress who held a hearing on the deal Tuesday.

“As a taxpayer, I think the most important thing the Senate should be doing is having hearings on Bud’s ‘Extra Innings’ package,” he said sarcastically. “I’m not interested in health care, Social Security, the war, unemployment, global warming. I think a committee hearing to determine whether Bud has the right to do what the NFL and NASCAR does is a good idea.”

Other topics discussed by the panel included the role of team- and league-owned television stations and Web sites and the amount of access afforded to journalists by teams and leagues.

“There is no question over our ability to provide access to our players and to everybody in the sport,” Selig said. “The fact of the matter is that the need for access is as great today as it was. There’s no question the world has changed … but none of that diminishes our need, for our benefit, [for] the ability to provide as much access as possible.”

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