Debate: The Nationals, the Orioles, Peter Angelos, and MASN Part 4: The numbers few talk about behind the MLB TV money

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


Pardon me for forgetting how hard the Orioles had it in the 90s and 00′s during the Yankees / Red Sox bubble.  I was too busy thinking about how MLB gutted the Expos/Nationals farm team, stripped the franchise of all its scouts and spring training facility.  MLB also cut the team’s payroll to the point they would not allow September call ups and not drafting players on talent, but on sign-ability.  The MASN deal was just another indignity heaped on the franchise.  The only problem now is that Mike Rizzo and the team has been able to outrun all those problems, except for maybe Spring Training (that is another post) but this idiotic MASN TV deal.  Allow me to explain:

1.  The whole concept doesn’t make logistical sense.  The network owns the rights to 2 baseball franchises.  These teams play virtually every day for 6 months of the year.  Their games are always in conflict with each other; this necessitated adding MASN 2 to carry the other game.  For the first few years some cable networks didn’t have MASN 2 so games couldn’t be watched.  A viewer has no idea which channel the game is going to be on every day, because in the name of “fairness” the teams are on MASN 1 an equal amount of time.  The rest of the time MASN 2 sits as a blank channel on my cable system.  The Dodgers are on SportsNet LA and the Angels are on FS West; the Cubs are on WGN and White Sox are on CSN Chicago, the Mets are on SNY, the Yankees are YES; the Giants are CSN Bay Area, the A’s are CSN California.  You see how that works, MLB and Angelos don’t.  More on the huge problem later.

2.  The content of the network doesn’t satisfy anyone except those that happen to follow all Baltimore and Washington sports team.  Jim Harbaugh keeps begging for Redskins fans to let the Ravens be their AFC team, but most Skins fans are not interested.  Same with the O’s, I am willing to bet people from Baltimore are even less interested in Nats news than vice-versa.

The game broadcasts are actually very good.  I like the pregame and post game show and the quality of presentation is as good as any in baseball.  I really like the talent on the station and their website.  The problem with the network is everything else.  I can’t watch MASN content because it pretends that I care about anything going on in Baltimore sports.  I am from Washington, I watch Washington teams.  There is plenty of demand for Baltimore Ravens and Orioles news in Baltimore, I don’t care about either team at all, and watching MASN broadcasts requires half the time being spent on those teams.  Don’t even get me started on the shared booth during the battle of the “beltways”.  I can honestly say that TV contract colors my feelings about the O’s.  If I knew the Nats were a partner in the network I would be more forgiving of the content.  MASN really wants to pretend it is the Baltimore/Washington market but these are two distinct cities.

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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.

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