FanPost

MASN's Brewing Storm


As if MASN's ledger needed any more problems, a recent decision by the US Court of Appeals upheld the FCC decision that Time Warner can't be compelled to carry MASN programming in North Carolina (Charlotte Observer). The notion that Nationals' and Orioles' games can be blocked from roughly a third of their MLB designated territory adds to what I think may become the network's undoing.

The network was founded on a crummy premise to appease Angelos and it looks likely that that foundation might bring the whole thing down. The current talks could end up tripling (or more) the Nationals' take and while that could be a bonanza for the team, the Sports Business Journal reported that a clause amongst the agreements says that a significant increase in payment to the Nationals automatically results in the same to the Orioles (Baltimore Sun). Lets do the math: The Nationals currently get $29mil which is a 13% share so MASN pays about $223mil between the two teams. Should the Nationals fee increase to the $75mil that Bos floated, MASN's already on the hook for $269mil before any Orioles increase which if equal ($'s, not %) comes out to $315mil. I haven't found anything to support these figures because the "reset" value of the Nationals has not been determined and the method for determining the corresponding Orioles increase was ambiguous.Even without a hard figure, it still looks like MASN would owe dramatically more.

Also unknown is how much of this hit could MASN absorb. All joking aside, the network doesn't exactly scream overflowing profits. Other than the pre- and post-game shows the Mid-Atlantic Sports Report is about their only original programming. I would think their only way to cover any increased expenses would be to expand their market and that's exactly what the 4th Circuit Court decision is preventing them from doing. I can't speak for everyone but I find it unlikely that there's enough Nats/Os fans in MASN's alleged market to convince cable providers that they need to carry the games. I doubt that the current success of either team will be enough sway non-local fans enough when it comes to money.

If the end of MASN comes to pass, it may end up being a boon to the Nationals anyway. If it came down to it, how would we expect management to choose between giving the network a discount to keep them afloat or seeing it collapse and be free to negotiate their TV rights with anyone (CSN)? Considering how the arrangement was drawn up in the first place, I couldn't blame anyone in the National's front office for turning their back on MASN when the money runs out.

Of course I'm not a journalist and and have no contacts but I'd be interested to see if any in the in could have a look around and see if things might be headed the direction I think they are.

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