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DirectTV - Evil Corporate Slugs or Simply Moronic?

By Dean Shutt

I know, I know, this is supposed to be a sports column. You turn to these pages twice a year to get your fix of insightful commentary on the world of games and gamesmen. You look to me to share your joy and feel your pain when your favorite team trades a passel of promising youngsters for a guy that has had 432 concussions in the last six months.

The you look at the title and you say to yourself, "What the hell is this, Entertainment Tonight?" Well no it isn't. In fact this column has everything in the world to do with sports. If you will just be patient and give a sentence or two I will explain in due course.

Judging by the title of this piece you might think that I was not a fan of DTV. You would of course be wrong. I love DTV and I am happy to say that I just got it installed in the new house and my life has meaning again. The point of this piece is to look at how DTV gives us sports and try to determine what the hell they are thinking.

Don't misunderstand, I get far more sports programming with my dish than I ever did with cable. I have seen more of my beloved Colts' games in the last two years than I had in my entire life. My problem is with the thinking that went into the design of the DTV sports packages. I hope to puzzle out what they were thinking when they came up with these offerings and perhaps offer a helpful suggestion or two for improvement. Or possibly I'll just rant and rave humorously for a thousand words or so. Let's see what happens together shall we?

I am a football fan. I love the game, I will watch it at any level. Pro, College, High School, hell I'll stop and check out a peewee game if I happen to be passing by. When I first discovered Sunday Ticket I was a very happy man. It wasn't so much that I got to see my beloved Colts each and every week. It was more that I got to see competitive games. Living in the Bay Area, you get used to seeing the Niners squash some hapless NFC Worst opponent or more recently, the Raiders doing the same. Granted the last couple years the Niners have sucked, but there is only so much vengeance rooting a guy needs. Besides, it really blows to have to watch the ticker and see quality games going on elsewhere while you are stuck with a 50 to 15 Niners/Falcons game.

With DTV, that is all over, you get to watch the best games that are being played no matter where they are. If you see a better game on the ticker, switch on over and watch it for a while. It is, in short, football nirvana. So I was pretty pumped to check some of the other sports packages as well. If football is that good, surely baseball and hockey must be worth the price of admission. Right?

Wrong, turns out I am not so much a hockey fan as I am a Rangers fan. I find baseball on television pretty damn boring if it doesn't involve the Red Sox, Mariners or Phillies. Yet I am expected to pony up something on the order of 130 clams a season to watch the Blue jackets vs. the Hurricanes or the Devil Rays vs. the Tigers? That doesn't work son and it just never will. Heck, there were times that my beloved Red Sox weren't even included in the package. Why the heck and I spending money to see 13 games involving teams I don't care about? I can do that for free.

So then it hit me, why not just offer me, a Red Sox fan, the Red Sox season on TV. I pay them whatever and I get to see every Red Sox game. What could be better than that? You get to see your favorite team and they get money from people who otherwise wouldn't bother getting a sports subscription. And they could do it for any sport. I could pick up the Sixers, Sox and Rangers package and know that I will decent sports to watch year round. Is that great or what?

Apparently not, because it took a lawsuit to get DTV to breakup the Sunday Ticket, and even then they are doing it by the week and not by the game or team. I just don't understand what they are thinking. People don't sit there and say, "This weekend I am a big football fan and will shell out thirty bucks for 16 games, even though I will only be able to see maybe four of them with some judicious remote control use." No, no, no, fans may want to see one particular game, maybe two, a weekend. Why not play to that? Charge five dollars a game and watch how many impulse buyers you pick up. At that price, it would only take 2 games a week before they were making more money than they do on the package. Why are they not doing this?

With other sports the numbers are even better 80 odd games a year in the NBA and NHL, 162 in baseball. At $5 a pop, the numbers are huge even if fans only grab a third of the season. Think about how many times you have been sitting there and nothing was on TV. Now what if you could catch your favorite team for $4.95 by clicking a button on your remote? You would do that wouldn't you? Of course you would, we all would, we're guys. We watch sports on television, it is what we do.

It obviously isn't a technical issue, if they can do pay per view movies, they could do it for sports. Why they don't is beyond me, but here is hoping that DTV and the industry in general wakes up to this goldmine. At least they had better wake up to it before my teams start sucking again, or they won't get a single dime from me...unless of course Pedro is pitching...or Rangers are playing the Flyers at MSG...or there isn't anything else on the tube...

Dean's House of Pain Joy

The Official Site for the Colts The Official Site for the New York Rangers The Official Site for the Boston Red Sox The Official Site for the San Jose Rhinos