On The Air
by Laura Nachman
Bucks County Courier Times
March 9, 2007

Major League Baseball announced its $700 million, seven-year agreement with DirecTV on Thursday and said the deal contains a provision that allows its “Extra Innings” package of out-of-market games to remain on cable television if the other incumbent providers agree to match the terms.

The president of one of those providers, iN Demand's Robert Jacobson — which represents Comcast and other cable companies — immediately said those terms were impossible for his company to agree to and called it a “de facto exclusive deal.”

The Federal Communications Commission has been investigating the talks between baseball and DirecTV, which have drawn the attention of Sen. John Kerry, D-Mass.

“I certainly would hope it would alleviate the concerns,” said Bob DuPuy, baseball's chief operating officer.

“Extra Innings” had more than 500,000 television subscribers last year plus about 60 percent more on MLB.com, the sport's Web site. DirecTV president Chase Carey says that there were about 230,000 subscribers to the “Extra Innings” package last year outside of DirecTV and estimated that just approximately 5,000 of that group would not have access DirecTV, a satellite service.

Baseball said the agreement, which must be approved by owners, includes a provision allowing the package to remain on iN Demand Networks LLC and EchoStar Communications Corp.'s Dish Network “at consistent rates and carriage requirements” if a deal can be worked out this month.

“In response to those concerns of our fans, baseball has negotiated with DirecTV to offer the package to the incumbents,” DuPuy said. “I hope that those fans who have been directing their concerns to us over the last several weeks will now encourage their cable carriers to in fact enlist for this package.”

Mr. Bubble

Figuring out what teams will make the NCAA tournament is becoming almost as popular as the actual games, and Philadelphia's Joe Lunardi is at the epicenter of the March Madness storm. The Saint Joseph's radio analyst, has turned his Bracketology into one of the most searched sites on www.espn.com, as well as an annual 10-day stint at ESPN headquarters in Bristol, Conn.

In a conference call, Lunardi compared debating the merits of the college teams to debating the issues of political candidates.

“The fans are completely into it,” he said. “People start talking about the tournament in January.”

In the last two weeks, Lunardi said he has received more than 150 requests for interviews on sports talk radio shows across the country.

March Madness tips off with the “NCAA Basketball Selection Show” at 6 p.m. Sunday on CBS.

Macnow recovering

After seven surgeries on his knees over the last 25 years, WIP 610-AM host Glen Macnow underwent double knee replacement surgery last week.

Macnow hopes to be back on the air at WIP in a couple of weeks. The station will accommodate him by letting him do shows from home. Fortunately for Macnow, there are two doctors in the family. Both of his sons are studying to become physicians.

The Associated Press contributed to this column.

E-mail: lauranachman@verizon.net

March 9, 2007 9:18 AM