"Sports fans are the no-brainer market" for iTV, said Eric Shanks, exec VP-DirecTV Entertainment. "In their world, information is king. If you don't have your fantasy information at hand, you feel left out. ... Stats are the language of sports."
The interactive offering will be free and is a partnership between YES, DirecTV and Major League Baseball Advanced Media, which supplies the data for the service. The announcement follows other interactive applications from DirecTV -- most notably in its NFL Sunday Ticket package.
Learning from experience
The satellite company has benefited from the experience of its News Corp. British sibling BSkyB, which has offered interactive TV for the past seven years. (In the U.K., gambling, which is legal, is the big iTV driver, with about 60% of the activity coming from betting.)
Mr. Shanks notes that 40% of DirecTV's NFL Sunday Ticket subscribers use the interactive functions, and of those who use it, two-thirds use it more than 10 times a day. Additionally, more than two-thirds of those who had the interactive functions for the NCAA college basketball tournament used the service.
Mr. Shanks said he's encouraged by the early usage data on the YES deal, which has been available for the past five games. Without any promotion, he said, one-third of those who could use the service did. Of those who used it, about 85% used it multiple times, 50% used it six or more times and 25% used it 11 or more times. DirecTV's interactive TV services are available to anyone who has an interactive set-top box, which DirecTV began distributing two years ago.
Ultimately, said Tracy Dolgin, president-CEO of YES Network, the interactive application will help them offer something "stickier" to advertisers in the "post-TiVo world." The network isn't selling sponsorship of the features for this season but plans to take it to clients next year.
Of course, other satellite and cable operators have introduced sports-related iTV as well. Earlier this year, ESPN and Dish Network unveiled interactive Indy 500 coverage, which let viewers choose among six live in-car cameras. And earlier in the year, Time Warner Cable unveiled an interactive fantasy-football application in a select market -- Green Bay, Wis., home of the Packers.