Last Tuesday's official launch of the Yankees Entertainment & Sports network — and its absence from Cablevision Systems Corp. systems — helped spur an uptick in inquiries, sales and installations for DirecTV Inc., according to New York-area satellite dealers.
Meanwhile — with one week left before the April 1 season opener for Major League Baseball's New York Yankees — no new talks are scheduled between Cablevision and YES, according to executives from both companies.
DirecTV said there has been an increase in inquiries from Cablevision subscribers about purchasing the satellite service over the past two weeks.
The Bethpage, N.Y.-based MSO, which wants to put the $2-per-subscriber YES Network on a premium tier, is YES's largest cable holdout, with some 3 million households. YES wants a basic slot on Cablevision, similar to its position on the lineups of other MSOs in the market, including Time Warner Cable and Comcast Corp.
Although DirecTV senior manager of communications Robert Marsocci said it was "too premature" to provide actual subscribership figures, "we certainly expect to see a jump in incremental subscribers in the New York area."
Local satellite dealers have already experienced brisk sales for DirecTV systems. At ABS Satellite in Ronkonkoma, N.Y., owner Mike Gallino said he was swamped last week.
"I'm definitely selling more DirecTV systems," Gallino said. "Most of my customers are frustrated with Cablevision."
Gallino said ABS hasn't had to run special advertising to call attention to the YES situation. "It's been promoted by itself in the papers," he explained.
At Brooklyn-based Orbit Home Cable & Satellite, installer Armstrong Holder said his company has also had many people ask about DirecTV because of YES.
"A lot of people are not satisfied with Cablevision right now because of the packages," Holder said.
Even though EchoStar Communications Corp.'s Dish Network also had not struck a carriage deal with YES by its March 19 launch, Brooklyn-based Sat Tech Antenna Systems did not see Dish customers converting to DirecTV.
"The [DBS] sports enthusiasts have DirecTV already," noted Sat Tech operations manager Rick Ortiz.
Meanwhile, local sports columnists are beginning to weigh in more often on the dispute. In an effort to punish both YES and Cablevision for treating subscribers as "pawns," New York Post
TV sports writer Phil Mushnick encouraged Cablevision subscribers not to switch to DirecTV to get YES Network, or purchase any pay-per-view events from Cablevision, "until the satisfactory resolution of the YES-Cablevision conflict."
During its launch week, the rookie sports network, which will carry 130 regular-season Yankees games, had its share of problems. Time Warner Cable subscribers were subjected to poor YES picture and sound quality — as well as a 45-minute blackout during the network's March 20 Yankees-Pittsburgh Pirates telecast.
A Time Warner spokesman admitted the system suffered "a few technical glitches" often typical of new network launches, but said the problems had been "taken care of."
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