DirecTV and YES Deliver an Interactive Hit

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DirecTV Inc.’s interactive play this past summer with the Yankees Entertainment & Sports Network’s telecasts of New York Yankees home baseball games proved to be a major hit with viewers.

More than 42% of New York-area DirecTV Inc. subscribers with interactive receivers used one or more of the features on a weekly basis, rivaling participation numbers for the direct-broadcast satellite leader’s “NFL Sunday Ticket” out-of-market package, according to DirecTV executive vice president Eric Shanks.

The two companies will look to take their swings with the interactive service next year, adding several new features including a Yankees fantasy game, according to YES Network chief operating officer Ray Hopkins.

STATS AND ANGLES

The service, which launched this past July, offered consumers up-to-the-minute, out-of-town sports scores, league standings, and Yankees player statistics as part of YES’ live Yankees home game telecasts. In addition, DirecTV customers were able to access a second video feed providing live game coverage from a different vantage point than the primary YES feed.

Among the findings: More than 82% of DirecTV subscribers who accessed the application used its features more than once per telecast, with 43% applying it six or more times and 25% using it more than 11 times.

Not surprisingly, the out-of-town feature — which prominently showcased scores involving the Yankees’ divisional rival, the Boston Red Sox — was the most popular. DirecTV reported that the feature was accessed by more than 35% of all interactive-enabled viewers.

“The numbers are consistent with what we’re seeing in terms of participation across NFL Sunday Ticket, March Madness [the out-of-market National Collegiate Athletic Association college-basketball tournament package] and the U.S. Open [tennis],” he said. “[Interactivity] doesn’t appear to be a novelty anymore.”

Hopkins said he has high hopes that YES and DirecTV can improve on participation numbers for next season. The 2007 campaign will offer new features, he said, such as a fantasy game in which consumers can pick several Yankees and players from the opposing team. The viewer whose player generates the most points during the game could be eligible for prizes.

Hopkins also said the “bonus cam,” which was only available for home games, could be added to road contests as well next season.

“It’s an interactive service that people are using on a very high basis,” Hopkins said. “As the word gets out and people become more familiar with it going into next year, I think that we can even build on these numbers.”

BUILDING THE ROSTER

Shanks said DirecTV is in talks with a number of other regional sports networks about adopting its interactive features, but no deals have been struck.

“We want to make sure we can replicate the success [of the YES test] without any mistakes and find partners that will embrace it as much as YES has.”

Meanwhile, the DBS service in November will roll out a new interactive game service that will offer casual games like solitaire for viewers to play on-screen. Shanks said the difference between its “Game Lounge” and similar on-screen game services offered by operators is that DirecTV subscribers will be able to see their favorite programs and play games at the same time.

Shanks would not provide specific game details, however.

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