Since the Nationals’ arrival last spring, the newly dedicated fans of Washington baseball have found few opportunities to watch their beloved team on television. Because of a dispute between the powerful cable provider Comcast and Baltimore Orioles owner Peter Angelos concerning the Nats’ television rights—which currently belong to the Mid-Atlantic Sports Network owned by Angelos—the only local baseball coverage D.C.-area residents consistently see is the story in the following day’s Washington Post.
Although a long-time opponent to any Major League Baseball team intruding on the Orioles’ regional turf, Angelos—a Baltimore billionaire known for bullying the MLB out of TV deals—brokered a deal with MLB to allow the then-Expos to move to Washington. Yet he looks to be the driving force behind getting Nationals games on TV regularly.
The Orioles’ owner controls the Nationals’ television rights through the MASN, which was created last year to satisfy the requirement that the Orioles own complete television rights to show MLB games in the Washington area. Those rights were given to the Orioles in 1981, 10 years after the old Senators fled Washington for Arlington, Texas.
Comcast subscribers throughout the Washington region can only watch Nationals games that are broadcast on WDCA (Channel 20), Fox and ESPN. The vast majority of Nationals games, however, are carried by MASN, which is rarely aired.
Comcast has refused to air MASN because of a dispute between its sports network, Comcast SportsNet, and Angelos over the television rights to the Orioles. When the contract with the American League club, which has one year left, expires the Orioles will likely join the Nationals on MASN if another deal is not yet made. This would be the worst case scenario for all involved because then Comcast would likely show neither Orioles nor Nationals games.
Peter Angelos testified before a House committee last Friday that he would be willing to work with Comcast to merge MASN with Comcast SportsNet. That particular deal expects Comcast to make room right now to begin airing MASN-produced Nationals games. Then Angelos expects the two sides to enter into discussions to affect the merger.
The Angelos offer is a deal Comcast should take to favor all parties. Comcast will be allowed to continue broadcasting baseball games, the Orioles do not lose out on television programming and fans of the Nationals in the D.C. area will finally be allowed to watch the games instead of having catching only a few choice plays on SportsCenter.