Leave it to DirecTV to defend its much-criticized, exclusive deal with the MLB by knocking cable. In a letter to FCC Media Bureau chief Monica Shah Desai Fri, the DBS provider said it will transform the MLB’s out-of-market "Extra Innings" package into a more compelling product (the deal, by the way, still hasn’t been officially announced). No baseball fans will be denied access to the package as they can switch to DirecTV for free, it said. Approx 230K Extra Innings subs last year were non- DirecTV subs. It estimated that no more than 3% of total cable subs (180K people) won’t be able to receive its satellite service, adding that they can instead watch the games via MLB.com. Then, in true dishhead-form, DirecTV proceeded to bash cable as providing the "only real barriers" to cable customers wanting to switch to its service. "Cable penalizes such customers by increasing the price of Internet service if the customer drops cable’s video service," said DirecTV, which has no broadband service. "Furthermore, if cable did not prohibit a direct connection between the Internet and set-top box, MLB.com could easily be viewed on TV sets." It also couldn’t pass up an opportunity to bellyache about terrestrially delivered Comcast Sports Net Philly, which isn’t available to DirecTV or DISH Network. The provider noted that MLB initiated discussions about an exclusive deal several months ago with multichannel providers, and only DirecTV showed an interest in carrying the package on terms acceptable to MLB—which includes carriage of The Baseball Channel to all basic subs, something cable’s been unwilling to agree to (see NFL Net). DirecTV said the arrangement is going to be a "big win for consumers, and is consistent with Congress’ and the FCC’s pro-competitive policies." New plans for the package include a mosaic channel and Strike Zone channel that will deliver live cut-ins of games throughout the country. "DirecTV expects to provide most, if not all, games in high definition for the 2008 baseball season—an innovation that most cable operators cannot match," the letter said. It pointed to its recently revamped, exclusive "NASCAR Hotpass," saying that the cable industry had the NASCAR rights for years but did little with the programming. DirecTV said it already has more than 3 times the subs for this programming than cable ever had, even though the season has just begun.

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