Wednesday, April 18, 2007

My dish, their loss and mine

The Monk needs his MLB package, period. As the TV season winds down, the summer heats up and the Monkling continues his approach, The Monk expects to watch many many many Yankees games, either in whole or in part.

To that end, The Monk gave Dish Network every chance he could for the company to step up and procure the Extra Innings package. The InDemand cable service matched DirecTV's offer to MLB for rights to broadcast the package; Dish Network failed, citing the need thereafter to "increase charges to consumers" if it had coughed up the money for the broadcast rights. That's a loser's lament.

Every businessman knows that you need to invest money in the business to obtain a return. Cable and satellite programming are notoriously capital-intensive at the initial stages. Dish Network is past those stages and therefore should be obtaining a decent margin on its services. Its failure to obtain broadcast rights to the baseball package means that it loses out yet again on the most desireable financial demographic: men 25-34. Now there is a satellite company for sports and one that does not have sports.

Dish should not delude itself: despite the radio adverts and the talking points of its salespeople, it does not broadcast tons of NFL football -- subscribers can only get whatever the networks broadcast each weekend into their home markets plus the ESPN game; only DirecTV has the package that enables you to see any game. Because The Monk wants to actually get his posterior off the couch at some point during the weekend, the Sunday Ticket does not attract me (and I saw more than 1/2 the Giants' games last year). Dish does not broadcast tons of baseball (the line the rep tried to sell to me when I canceled) -- you can only receive the ESPN and FOX weekly games and whatever local team is covered in your area -- same as cable. In other words, I can't get the Yanks here in Texas unless: (1) they're on ESPN; (2) they're on FOX's Saturday game and the locals are not broadcasting the Rangers or Astros; (3) they're playing the Rangers. That's unacceptable.

And it's also too bad. Much to my chagrin, with DirecTV, I need a receiver for each TV; with Dish, I needed two receivers to run four TVs because each one handled two sets. With DirecTV, I can only watch the DVR recordings on one TV, the one with the DVR; Dish enabled two TVs to set up recordings and watch playback off of one DVR. Finally, Dish had a much better non-HD picture than DirecTV with simpler options (stretch, zoom, partial zoom, graybar, normal) than the complicated options that DirecTV provides (stretch, zoom and a "pillar box" that widens for HD signals; each option for 480p, 480i, 720p, 720i and 1080i -- and you have to scroll through all the formats if you press the button once too often and go past your desired setting). At least DirecTV hooked up my better TV with an HDMI cable (those retail for $40+).

Dish's failure to step up in the baseball negotiations lost it this customer, and probably others. Viewers who buy sports packages are the type to purchase other programming upgrades: movie channels, options beyond the basic tier, etc. Worse yet, it suffered a loss of face and of reputation -- if even the "bad" cable providers are going to aggressively seek programming that a strong minority of their viewers want, it is doubly bad for Dish to fail to meet the needs of a powerful and high-paying minority.

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