As the NCAA college-basketball tournament winds down this
week, both DirecTV Inc. and CBS are calling DirecTV's inaugural package of
out-of-market tournament games a success.
While a new distribution deal for the marquee tournament
package has not been reached, the apparently strong DirecTV performance doesn't help
cable's chances of offering NCAA-tournament games on a pay-per-view basis anytime in
the near future, according to industry executives.
The package, which included up to 34 games from the first
three rounds of the tournament, provided DirecTV subscribers with complete coverage of the
popular "March Madness" event. Subscribers could buy the package for $39 or pay
$14.95 per game.
"The package was everything that we expected,"
said Jayne Hancock, director of sports marketing for DirecTV. "It was a very
important, exclusive sports package that we feel performed well and was well received by
our customers and the media."
DirecTV, however, would not reveal how many buys it
generated from the package, nor would it officially say whether the package was
CBS, which holds the broadcast rights to the tournament,
also said it was happy with the initial feedback from the DirecTV package, but it would
not reveal specific numbers either.
"People who were able to take advantage of the
purchase were very satisfied with the product," said Leslie Anne Wade, vice president
of communications for the broadcast network. "We'll take some time, look at the
results and decide which way to move next year."
Hancock said DirecTV is hoping to extend the exclusive,
one-year agreement with CBS for at least another year. "We have a great relationship
with CBS, and we certainly want to talk to them about continuing it," she added.
But cable operators offering the package in the future is a
long shot at best.
Cable operators hotly pursed the marquee package late last
year, but the NCAA Division I Men's Basketball Committee said DirecTV's
estimated 4.6 million-subscriber universe was sufficient enough to provide fans with the
ability to watch additional games without compromising the product or hurting CBS
"Our first order of business is to take care of CBS
and our stations, and to protect them as carriers of this extensive and expensive
property," Wade said. "We understand that there are displaced alumni and avid
college-basketball fans who would be better served if this were being made available [to
cable]. We will continue to look to accommodate the fans in the best way possible for all