Playing hardball with the cable bill

August 24, 2006

Peter Angelos and Comcast have teamed up to combine two great American pastimes—baseball and screwing the little guy. Earlier this month, the Baltimore Orioles owner announced, amidst applause from the Nationals and Mayor Anthony A. Williams, that he had reached a long-awaited deal with Comcast to broadcast Nationals games in the Washington, D.C area. A few days later, with less pomp and circumstance, Comcast disclosed that cable fees would be increased by $2 a month as a result of the deal. These last couple bucks might be the proverbial straw breaking the backs of loyal Nats fans—camels storing up hope like water amidst a desert of sub-.500 baseball, fooled time and again by the mirage of red tape-mired promises for the future of baseball in Anacostia.

Angelos helped broker the agreement for the Expos to move to D.C, with the stipulation that the Orioles would control all baseball television rights in the Baltimore-Washington area. He created the Mid-Atlantic Sports Network with that purpose in mind, but financial disputes with Comcast SportsNet kept the Nats off the air for fifteen months.

Two dollars a month doesn’t sound like a lot for the number of games that will be shown—it’s less than half of the cheapest nosebleed seat ticket price for a single game, and a fraction of the price of services like MLB.tv. Not only do the little charges add up for utilities consumers who are staring at a winter of heating their homes with gas prices at astronomical levels, but the little charges will add up big time for Comcast as well.

Multiply that two bucks per month by the 1.6 million Comcast “expanded basic cable” subscribers in the Washington-Baltimore area and you’ll realize that Comcast stands to make a pretty penny. The company claims that the increased charges are the result of the high price of broadcasting Nationals games, but Angelos-owned MASN maintains that this simply isn’t the case, and that the cable company is using the recently acquired Nationals rights as a shoddy excuse to continue their trend of raising rates.

Comcast enjoys the vast lion’s share of digital cable subscriptions in the region, leaving residents with little choice but to grin and bear the increase. Hoyas are no exception—many Georgetown students who live off-campus or in university townhouses are forced to subscribe to Comcast as their cable provider.

Angelos must be happy to be the good guy in this latest bit of price gouging, but Nats fans won’t soon forget the fifteen-month stand off he had with Comcast. At this point, the semantics of who’s screwing whom have become unimportant. What the fans will remember is that everyone involved cares more about making a buck than the good of the team and the civic pride it promotes. Major League Baseball will continue to lose fans if, even in an optimistic and growing market like Washington, its owners do anything they can to squeeze their fans out of every dime possible. Angelos created a bad situation, but Comcast has made it worse. Nationals fans should consider taking a stance and watching games at RFK or online. Meanwhile, all D.C. residents should push their council members to legislate for greater diversity in the cable market. Comcast cannot continue to enjoy the luxury of a virtual monopoly.

Editorial Board
The Editorial Board is the official opinion of the Georgetown Voice. Its current composition can be found on the masthead. The Board strives to publish critical analyses of events at both Georgetown and in the wider D.C. community. We welcome everyone from all backgrounds and experience levels to join us!

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