Nationals Notebook

Nationals Broadcast Leaves Fans In the Dark

By Chico Harlan
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, June 12, 2009

For at least a brief period Wednesday night, the Washington Nationals became, officially, unwatchable. Some Comcast and Cox cable subscribers in Washington and in outlying counties missed a portion of the rain-delayed, extra-inning Nationals loss because the cable providers pulled the plug on their feed from MASN2, which was broadcasting the game.

Comcast issued a statement this afternoon apologizing for the error.

"We sincerely apologize to any customer who may have missed a portion of the 9th and 10th innings of last night's Nationals game. The interruption was the result of a unique set of circumstances that included a more than two hour rain delay coupled with extra innings, causing the channel to revert to its usual programming. Once the issue was detected our engineering teams worked to restore service before the end of the game, and we have since put a new fix in place so such a situation does not occur again. We again apologize to any customer who was impacted."

Gwen Sparks, a spokesman for Cox, said yesterday that the network didn't miss much of the game.

"We didn't miss a lot when it came back," Sparks said. "We actually missed two or three minutes of the game when they started again; it was right before midnight. Our customers didn't miss whole chunks of the game, just two to three minutes, because of the signaling when it started up again live."

MASN2 is an "overflow" channel -- that is, it only exists when a ballgame is there to support it -- and on Comcast, for instance, it shares channel space with C-SPAN2. When play resumed at 11:40 p.m., after a two-hour, 10-minute rain delay, the Nationals began a bottom-of-the-ninth comeback. But Comcast subscribers in the D.C. area were stuck watching Sen. Tom Coburn on C-SPAN2. Cox subscribers in Fairfax County encountered a fishing show. Some viewers in Montgomery County, Arlington County and Prince William County also encountered problems.

In some areas, the MASN2 feed did not reappear until after midnight, when the game was in the 10th inning.

A MASN spokesman said the feed from Nationals Park continued uninterrupted Wednesday night; any problems resulted from the cable providers' failure to stick with the proper feed.

When play resumed last night, MASN customer service representatives received phone calls from viewers looking for the game. At the time the Nationals were scoring two runs in the bottom of the ninth to force extra innings in what became a 12-inning, 4-2 loss to Cincinnati, the regular MASN channel was showing the replay of a Baltimore Orioles game.

Staff writer Mark Viera contributed to this report.

© 2009 The Washington Post Company