The Washington Capitals and Bullets and the Baltimore Orioles are considering a partnership to package the three teams' games for cable or subscription television.
Marketing and technical studies have been delivered to the three teams, and industry officials are predicting that they will go ahead with a joint venture.
Sports teams in several other cities have set up cable TV packages in which many, or sometimes all, of their games are taken off commercial television and made available only to those who pay to see them.
"We have talked to the Orioles about this type of venture," said Jerry Sachs, president of Capital Centre, in Landover, home of the Capitals of the National Hockey League and the Bullets of the National Basketball Association. He said a study by Communications Technology Management Inc. of McLean has been delivered to the teams, but "we have taken no further action."
Lawrence Lucchino, law partner and television-rights negotiator for Orioles owner Edward Bennett Williams, confirmed that talks are taking place, but said "it would be wrong to assume that we are on the verge of a major deal."
The three teams currently show many road games but few, if any, home games on commercial television. Last season, for the first time, the Orioles also sold the rights to 16 home games to Super TV, a pay-television service.
Thomas Thompson, president of Super TV, said that Robert Schmidt, president of Communications Technology Management, had "spent a lot of time in my office over the past six or eight months" discussing the development of a "Sports-Channel-type program" to carry baseball, basketball and hockey in an area that could extend as far south as Raleigh, N.C.
"We have an interest in carrying it," Thompson said. "Our research says it would be successful, but it's not without risk."
Other industry sources said the Orioles and the Capital Centre teams had been approached by several sports-program and cable television pack-agers interested in a year-round schedule of games. Successful marketing would require participation of all three teams and service to both the Baltimore and Washington areas, they said.
The Orioles, who reportedly had the fourth-lowest commercial broadcasting revenue in major league baseball last season, recently negotiated a new two-year contract with Baltimore's WMAR to televise 50 road games, but no home games. Many of those games also are fed to Washington's WDCA-TV, Channel 20.
When the first home games were sold to Super TV last year, owner Williams said the Orioles "don't intend to give up or abandon our over-the-air free television... If we go into subscription television or cable, it will be for home games."
A spokesman for WMAR said the station bought exclusive rights to road games, but the Orioles are free to sell home-game rights to Super TV or anyone else