Debate: The Nationals, the Orioles, Peter Angelos, and MASN Part 3: The O’s reason for insisting on MASN

Mid-Atlantic Sports Network
Mid-Atlantic Sports Network (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

This is part 3 of the debate over the MASN contract MLB and the O’s negotiated before the Nats moved to DC.

Jason, I’ll get to your questions in a minute, but I want to make one point.

The Orioles/Nationals MASN deal was made in 2004-05.  Since then, the Sports Television landscape has completely changed.  In many ways, this was a terrible business deal for the Orioles, because they committed themselves to a long-term contract, with no safeguards if the marketplace shifted.

I’ll explain.  Back in in 2004, MLB was dominated by the Yankees and the Red Sox, who both had their own cable TV networks, YES and NESN respectively.  By selling their networks to local cable distributors, these two teams brought in hundreds of millions of dollars per year, dwarfing every MLB team in terms of revenue.  In 2004, there were two leagues: the Yankees and Red Sox, and then the other 28 teams.  Oh, also, the Yankees and Red Sox were in the Orioles division.

I lived in Baltimore in 2004-05.  Things looked hopeless for the Orioles franchise back then.  Their two biggest division rivals had cash cow TV networks, two back-to-back ALCS appearances, a rolodex of bankable stars, and 20 times a year, the home team would get their brains beat in at a half-empty Camden Yard (the other half was filled with Red Sox or Yankee fans).  In 2005, the Orioles were entering their 8th straight losing season.  They probably felt closer to relegation than pennant contention.

Then, MLB decides to move the Expos into the Orioles backyard.  This probably felt like somebody twisting the knife after getting stabbed.

This was the landscape in 2005 when the MASN deal negotiated. Peter Angelos probably thought he NEEDED MASN to survive.  But then things started to change.  For reasons too complicated to explain here, the TV rights to live sporting events exploded in value.  The Rangers, Angles, Dodgers, and even the damn Padres signed multi-BILLION dollar deals.  Everyone was catching up to the Yankees and Red Sox.  More importantly, these teams were foregoing the team-owned TV network model and selling their rights directly to regional cable networks.

The Orioles thought the future was YES/NESN/MASN.  They were wrong.  And now the new marketplace threatens to blow up the MASN deal before its even 10 years old.

Now, your questions:

1.  Is there anything wrong with MASN?

I think MASN if fine.  The games are on TV and they’re in HD.  That’s all I care about.

It’s important to note the second reason MASN was created.  The first reason we’ve already addressed: keeping Nationals TV profits in Baltimore.  The second reason: keeping the Orioles on TV in DC.  The Orioles know how many fans they have in Washington DC and the surrounding suburbs.  The Orioles were the HOME TEAM for Washington DC for decades.  There are more DC baseball fans than you think who grew up watching Cal Ripken and will never switch allegiances.  It’s important to the Orioles to keep their games televised in DC.

Even if you hate the Orioles, as a baseball fan you have to enjoy having two games every night.  Not many markets have that.

Can you envision a scenario where both teams can coexist without one team taking advantage of the other?

Yogi Berra once said “predictions are hard, especially about the future.”  Seriously, things have changed so much in the last ten years, I imagine things will change even more in the next ten years.  For starters, Cable and Satellite TV is dying.  Ten years from now, we’re probably getting all our television programming from the Internet.  How this will work, I have no idea.

I also imagine a future where viewers have unlimited choice.  The idea of “local programming” is dead.  By that, I mean it’s just as easy to broadcast a Dodgers game in DC as it is a Nationals game.  In ten years, I’m hoping EVERY game is available in DC, and fans can watch whatever they want.  I’m less interested in keeping the Orioles out of DC than I am bringing the other 28 teams in.

From a Darwinian Capitalist standpoint, we should want the Nationals to feel threatened by the Orioles (and everyone else).  Competition makes people better.

What do you think about MASN?  You live outside the DC area, so you probably have a different perspective.

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3 thoughts on “Debate: The Nationals, the Orioles, Peter Angelos, and MASN Part 3: The O’s reason for insisting on MASN”

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