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Multichannel Mid-Day

If Bob DuPay had actually been sworn in, maybe the Major League Baseball chief would’ve thought twice about claiming the league’s exclusive $700 million deal with DirecTV “was not about maximizing the profits for us.” Yep, DuPay managed to say that with a straight face while sparring with Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.), whose Senate Commerce Committee grilled MLB, DirecTV and In Demand execs Tuesday.

The hearing is pointless. Congress has no business meddling with corporate contracts – it can’t force MLB to sell its Extra Innings package to cable, Kerry conceded. But Kerry and cohorts can exert plenty of political pressure – especially when America’s pastime is as stake.

And there may be hope yet for cable, as Kerry put DuPuy on the spot at the end of the hearing, not letting him leave the room until he agreed to meet face-to-face with cable execs to try to cut a last-minute deal before opening day of the 2007 season begins Monday.

Look Out, Blockbuster

Keep an eye on that “day-and-date” test Time Warner Cable and corporate sister Warner Bros. began running Wednesday in Austin, Texas, and Columbus, Ohio. If the studio finds that allowing Time Warner to sell Blood Diamond and other titles through pay video-on-demand on the same day the movies hit retail chains, it could quickly expand the strategy to New York, Los Angeles and other major cable divisions.

Time Warner’s DVD revenue will surely take a hit from the day-and-date strategy. Who would want to trudge down to Blockbuster or wait for a Netflix delivery rather than hitting the “B” button on their remote controls? But if the studio is brave enough to market the concept widely, it’ll likely find that VOD revenue from Time Warner and other pay TV distributors would more than make up for hit that DVD sales revenues would take.

Also Tuesday: Plenty of wireless news, with the CTIA confab running in Orlando, Fla. FCC chairman Kevin Martin cheered on the wireless industry, telling a general session that wireless broadband “should be on the same footing” as broadband Internet offerings from cable operators and telephone companies. Apple also drew headlines at CTIA, with AT&T execs saying they’ve taken calls from 1 million customers interested in ordering one of those new iPhones.

Hallmark Channel stepped up to the plate for its crack at advertisers during its upfront pitch. New chief Henry Schleiff, always the joker, countered TV Land’s Bill Clinton presentation at its upfront by breaking out a cardboard cutout of wife Hillary.

More bad news for Vince McMahon’s WWE, which has seen rival the hardcore Ultimate Fighting Championship league eclipse WWE’s hot pay-per-view sales. UFC parent Zuffa expanded its arsenal, buying rival extreme fighting league Pride in Japan.