MASN Reaches a Deal With Cox Cable

By Thomas Heath
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, March 9, 2006

Cox Communications agreed last night to offer the Mid-Atlantic Sports Network and 154 Washington Nationals games this season to its 260,000 subscribers in Northern Virginia, according to sources, a significant expansion in television exposure for the fledgling baseball franchise.

Cox is the third-largest cable operator in the United States and the second largest in the Washington-Baltimore region behind Philadelphia-based Comcast. The company has 242,000 subscribers in Fairfax County.

Nationals President Tony Tavares called the deal with Cox "a significant step."

"This is really great news because Cox is such a large cable system, which will help our distribution and our games in the Washington marketplace," Tavares said. "This will give us the opportunity to market to more people."

MASN now has contractual commitments to be transmitted to more than 2 million households throughout the mid-Atlantic region.

"We're thrilled to offer Nationals games to our customers as the '06 season starts," said Gary McCollum, vice president and regional manager for Cox Northern Virginia.

The games will be telecast on Channel 102 in Fairfax, Cox officials said. Cox also serves the Fredericksburg area, but it isn't yet known on which channel the games would be telecast there.

The Cox deal greatly expands the distribution of Nationals games in the Washington-Baltimore region, but the team has been unable to get mass exposure for its games because Comcast is suing MASN, which was founded by Baltimore Orioles owner Peter Angelos, over the rights to carry the Orioles. A Montgomery County Circuit Court judge has twice dismissed Comcast's lawsuit. Despite requests from MASN, Comcast has refused to carry MASN and its Nationals games.

Comcast is the dominant cable firm in the Washington area with 1.3 million subscribers and the largest in the country with more than 22 million.

MASN, which is co-owned by the Orioles, also has been unable to complete a deal with Adelphia, another major cable provider in the Washington-Baltimore region.

MASN, a regional sports network that competes with Comcast SportsNet in the Washington-Baltimore sports television market, also will televise 36 Nationals games on WDCA (Channel 20) and seven games on WTTG (Channel 5). That is down from the team's inaugural season in Washington, when 81 games were carried over the air, most of them on Channel 20.

All 158 of the Nationals' games produced by MASN will be aired on the satellite and cable affiliates that have agreements with the network, including DirecTV, cable company RCN, Charter Cable and VerizonFIOS.

The Orioles agreed to share television rights to the Baltimore-Washington region in return for MASN controlling the broadcast rights to Nationals games. MASN pays the Nationals around $21 million to produce and air the games. That payment is expected to increase in future years.

MASN will broadcast 158 games this season, including 154 regular season games and four spring training games, according to the network.

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