SBD/Issue 216/Sports Media

Comcast And MASN Settle Nearly Two-Year Old Carriage Dispute

Comcast and MASN “struck a deal to end the dispute that has left 1.6 million people in the metropolitan [DC] area unable to watch most” Nationals games, according to Tim Lemke of the WASHINGTON TIMES. Financial terms were not disclosed, but a source said that MASN “agreed to lower its price for carriage” by 5%. MASN is “expected to be available on Comcast cable systems in the Washington and Baltimore areas” by September 1. The deal also applies to subscribers in Salisbury, Maryland, and 600,000 subscribers in Pennsylvania, Virginia and North Carolina will receive the network “over the next two years.” The announcement came about a week after the FCC gave MASN the right to select an outside arbitrator to help end the dispute. Each side has agreed to drop any legal complaints against the other (WASHINGTON TIMES, 8/5). MASN will be carried on expanded basic on Comcast systems (THE DAILY). A source close to Comcast said that the September 1 date “might slip because the company has to give notice to channels it bumps to make space” for MASN (WASHINGTON POST, 8/5).

THE IMPORTANCE OF DEADLINES: In Baltimore, Childs Walker noted the FCC had “ordered the sides to go to arbitration to reach a deal, and MASN faced a filing deadline in that process” on Friday. A source said that the deadline “hastened negotiations.” Orioles counsel Alan Rifkin: “If we were to go forward with the FCC complaint, then many of the issues around Comcast would be brought to the public attention, and I don’t know that they really wanted that” (Baltimore SUN, 8/5). FCC Commissioner Robert McDowell: “It’s always helpful to give parties deadlines.” (WASHINGTON POST, 8/5).

Robinson Says Deal Will
Help Team Increase Fan Base

GOOD NEWS FOR TEAMS: Nationals manager Frank Robinson said the new deal “makes a difference. That’s the way you create new fans. That’s the way you get your fan base to come out to the ballpark, get out of those easy chairs and come out.” MASN announcer Bob Carpenter: “As time goes on, people need to see the team and to become part of the team. I think TV helps them really get into it. ... It takes fans to that next level of intimacy with a team so that they can really feel like they're with the club.” In DC, Barry Svrluga noted “some players pointed out that, because the games weren’t available on [Comcast], agents had a difficult time getting them endorsement deals.” Since the Nationals began playing in DC last season, only LF Brad Wilkerson, who now plays for the Rangers, “has been part of a prominent, regular ad campaign on television.” The ad was for a local bank (WASHINGTON POST, 8/5). MASN will begin carrying Orioles games next season, and Rifkin said the deal “secured the future of this franchise. It means that the franchise will be on solid financial footing now and for the future” (Baltimore SUN, 8/5).

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