MASN Takes On Comcast With New 24-Hour Programming

Wednesday, August 2, 2006

The Mid-Atlantic Sports Network, a joint venture between the Baltimore Orioles and the Washington Nationals, began 24-hour sports programming on Monday morning, creating a new round-the-clock rival to Comcast SportsNet.

MASN is home to the Washington Nationals, Baltimore Ravens preseason games and, starting in 2007, to the Orioles.

The network will air Ravens-related programs including "Ravens GamePlan," "Ravens Wired," "Ravens Report," "The Brian Billick Show," "Ravens Pre-Game Kickoff" and "Ravens Postgame Extra."

Other shows will feature classic moments from Orioles and Nationals games, and during the upcoming college basketball season, MASN will show more than 100 live NCAA Division I men's games, including six Georgetown and four University of West Virginia games.

Starting this week, the network began airing a Nationals postgame show. It is also replaying every Nationals game the following morning. Other programming will include state high school championships, marathons, bike racing and golf.

"MASN will cover the best in local sports that fans cannot see anywhere else," said MASN spokesman Todd Webster . "We will cover college rivalries, high school state championships, and collegiate athletics in addition to the full lineup of professional sports."

MASN reaches 2 million homes throughout the region through DirecTV, Cox, RCN and Charter cable companies, and VerizonFIOS.

Despite its expansion, MASN has been unable to blanket the Baltimore-Washington region because cable giant Comcast Corp. has refused to carry the network. Comcast serves approximately 1.3 million households in the Baltimore-Washington market, but it has sued the Orioles to prevent them from leaving Comcast SportsNet next year for MASN. The case has been thrown out of Maryland Circuit Court twice and is under appeal.

The blackout has ended up before the Federal Communications Commission, which this week gave MASN a choice between asking a commercial arbitrator or a judge working under the commission's oversight to address the dispute. Neither route guarantees that Comcast will carry MASN and, in either case, the dispute is unlikely to be resolved before this baseball season ends.

-- Thomas Heath

© 2006 The Washington Post Company