Asked about the changes, the Nationals responded with a scathing statement.
“MASN has notified us that they are parting ways with Dan Kolko, Bo Porter and Alex Chappell,” the team wrote. “In addition, MASN has cut Nats Xtra to just 15 minutes pre- and post-game. To say that we are incredibly disappointed and upset by MASN’s decisions would be a gross understatement. To be clear — these decisions were made by MASN and against our wishes.”
According to a person familiar with the discussions, the Nationals had a chance to pay the salaries of the talent and keep them, but the team declined.
The Nationals said they raised concerns with MASN and Major League Baseball about “the negative impact these decisions could have on our fans, especially now when content shared via broadcast and digital channels is vital for them to stay connected with our team.”
In its news release, MASN said pre- and postgame coverage would continue in its traditional 30-minute blocks. Carpenter and Santangelo could theoretically handle pre- and postgame duties if those shows originate from the ballpark. A MASN spokesman said no decisions about the logistics of the pre- and postgame shows had been made, but he reiterated that they would be 30 minutes long.
Chappell tweeted Monday to confirm her departure from the network. Kolko, in a text message, wrote that his status had not been resolved: “The situation is fluid right now so I can’t really comment but I love covering the Nats and being a part of the broadcast team.”
Kolko has been a longtime presence for Nationals fans, covering the team as a MASN blogger before switching to an on-air role in 2014. He spent five years as the Nationals’ dugout reporter before becoming the host of the 30-minute pre- and postgame shows in 2019. Chappell, a McLean native, joined MASN before the 2019 season and was part of almost every regular season game broadcast over the past two years. Porter, a former Nationals coach, also came on in the spring of 2019 to share the pre- and postgame set with Kolko.
Whatever the programming looks like this season, the MASN-centered dispute is just the latest in a years-long saga between the Orioles and Nationals. MASN was created when the Montreal Expos moved to D.C. in 2005. As payment to the Orioles for losing valuable geographic territory and fans to a new team, they maintained control of the network and the broadcast rights to Nationals games. For the past decade, MASN and the Nationals have been involved in a vicious legal dispute over the amount of rights fees the Nationals should receive.
This past fall, a New York appeals court ruled the Nationals are owed around $100 million in missing rights fees from 2012 to 2016, though MASN has vowed to appeal.
With the coronavirus pandemic affecting finances and consumers moving away from cable bundles, MASN has undertaken other cost-cutting moves ahead of the upcoming season. Last week, two Orioles broadcasters, Gary Thorne and Jim Hunter, announced their contracts were not renewed. MASN.com writer Byron Kerr, who regularly covered the minor leagues, tweeted Monday evening that he is no longer with the company. A handful of returning employees have had their salaries cut, according to three people with knowledge of the situation. The Athletic first reported last week that MASN was undergoing layoffs.
Monday should have been a positive news day for MASN. The network announced it will launch a new app to allow cable customers in the seven-state MASN television area to stream live Nationals and Orioles games on their phones and tablets for the first time. The new app will bring more options to viewers, something many have craved, but it will not help cord-cutters watch games. To watch the live streams, viewers will need a cable subscription to authenticate the video.