RCN on Monday stopped carrying the Mid-Atlantic Sports Network, which broadcasts Washington Nationals and Baltimore Orioles games, after the cable company and the regional sports network could not reach a carriage agreement. Effective Monday, RCN customers looking for MASN programming were greeted instead by a message that put the blame for the impasse on the network.
“We are unable to agree to the terms demanded by MASN,” a voice intoned over a graphic of a spinning, green dollar sign.
That will take MASN and its sister station, MASN2, off the channel lineup for the 14,991 homes served by RCN in the D.C. area, according to S&P Global Market Intelligence. That is the fewest homes of the pay TV providers in the Washington designated market area. MASN does not offer a streaming option for viewers.
The deadlocked negotiations centered, according to people with knowledge of the negotiations, on a concept called penetration minimums. RCN customers can choose between a basic package with broadcast stations such as ABC and Fox and a more comprehensive cable package with networks such as CNN, ESPN and MASN. Deals between networks and providers often call for a minimum percentage of a provider’s customers to pay for a network.
With the carriage deal between RCN and MASN up for renewal, those people suggested, RCN wanted to reduce the percentage of its homes that had to subscribe to MASN, while MASN wanted to keep the percentage the same. If MASN had renegotiated with RCN, it would have then been required to renegotiate its percentage minimums with other cable providers in the area.
“We would welcome RCN to choose to carry MASN like every other carrier in the seven-state region does,” a MASN spokesman said, referring to the network’s regional territory.
The stalemate centers on core issues both networks and cable providers face in the age of cord-cutting, as fewer consumers pay for cable television. MASN generates the bulk of its revenue through the fees that cable customers pay their subscribers for their packages — whether they watch MASN or not. RCN, faced with a diminishing subscriber base, would like to offer cheaper, more flexible packages to customers.
According to a person with knowledge of the dispute, no continuing negotiations are scheduled.
The clash with RCN is the latest drama for MASN, which remains embroiled in a years-long legal dispute between the Nationals and Orioles over how much money the Washington franchise should receive in TV rights fees. An MLB panel ruled this year that the network owed the Nationals tens of millions of dollars. The network appealed in New York State Court.
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