The Nationals and Orioles will not have a regular lineup of games broadcast on local television affiliates in Washington or Baltimore this season, breaking with years of tradition. Some Nationals games had appeared on WUSA in each of the last five seasons, and before that on WDCW. And Baltimore will snap a 64-year streak of at least some Orioles games appearing on broadcast television — often on either WJZ or WMAR — according to the Baltimore Sun.
Every game for both teams will be broadcast on either Mid-Atlantic Sports Network or MASN2, or on national networks such as ESPN, Fox or FS1. (The Orioles have a controlling interest in MASN, and the Nationals and MASN have been locked in a years-long feud about payments.)
“As the network that produces and airs all available Nationals games, MASN and MASN2 will now be the exclusive channels to watch Nationals baseball in the mid-Atlantic region,” MASN Managing Editor Pete Kerzel said in a statement. “Also for the first time, MASN and MASN2 will be the only channels where you can watch each ‘Nats Xtra’ pregame and postgame show.”
In 2017, WUSA aired 20 Nationals games as simulcasts with either MASN or MASN2, including the club’s home opener, games over Memorial Day and Labor Day weekends and on the Fourth of July. WJZ aired 20 Orioles games every season since 2007, and has been broadcasting Orioles games since the mid-1990s, a spokesman told the Sun.
Before the WUSA partnership, the Nationals had an arrangement with over-the-air Washington station WDCW. The Nats first partnered with that station in 2009, showing 20 games on selected Sunday afternoons.
When MASN partnered with WUSA before the 2013 season, a MASN executive praised local news stations for their “special place in the community and … special obligation in the community.” At that point, about a dozen Major League Baseball teams had over-the-air partners in addition to their cable homes.
Baltimore’s WJZ had pregame coverage of Thursday’s opener, but did not carry the game, as it did last season.
“Not giving O’s fans who don’t have cable a chance to connect with their team and the community through the ritual of Opening Day feels so wrong in terms of public service,” Sun television and media columnist David Zurawik wrote this week. “This is part of how citizens wind up feeling alienated and disconnected from the civic life of a place like Baltimore. And that feeling is only intensified when the institution that denies them a chance to participate through broadcast TV in an event like Opening Day offers no clear explanation for why it was done.”
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