Jim Williams: Who needs to take a hike, Comcast or MASN?
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Jim Williams, The Examiner
Aug 29, 2006 5:00 AM (3 hrs ago)
WASHINGTON - We told you Monday that Comcast will launch MASN as part of its channel package on Sept. 8 or the ensuing week, depending on your location
The Nationals and Orioles will finally both be on regional cable for years to come, which is great news.
Then we heard of a rate hike Comcast says is due to MASN?s arrival. But the Baltimore-based regional sports network claims the hike is not its fault.
So who is right? In a way, both are.
Orioles owner Peter Angelos started MASN to compete with the Yankees, Red Sox and Blue Jays, who all have regional sports networks. To drive up the local TV cash, Angelos wanted his own network.
So where does the money come from?
Mostly from cable companies and satellite services that will pay MASN a monthly programming fee. In this case, Comcast is the key player with nearly 1.6 million subscribers MASN needs to be successful.
Without cable and satellite fees, no regional or national cable network could survive.
Next year, MASN will pay the Nationals around $25 million. The price goes up yearly until it hits around $35 to $38 million per in five to seven years. All monies paid to the Nationals by MASN are guaranteed as per the deal between MASN and Major League Baseball.
Angelos and the Nationals are partners in MASN with the O?s holding an 80-20 edge. But the Nationals? guaranteed cash is why the Lerner family paid $450 million to buy the team. But whether or not the regional network is a success is in Angelos? hands.
The $25 million paid to the Nationals puts the team in the top 8 percent of baseball and a clear major-market player. The Orioles want to make the same amount of money next year, which would be a large jump from where they were this season.
In 2007, the expected $25 million the Orioles would have to spend should help them in the AL East race to be sure.
But how about that $2 per month Comcast says MASN brought on them?
Well, you have to factor in the cost of Comcast SportsNet, the ESPN family of networks, TNT, TBS, FSN, SPEED, The Golf Channel, OLN, Fox Soccer Channel, CSTV, Gol TV and a number of smaller sports fees.
We saw with the Emmys that cable networks like Bravo, USA, TNT, FX, BBC America, Discovery and others are producing quality television with costs being passed on to cable and satellite operators. It is a wonder the average monthly cable or satellite bill without HBO or Showtime is not nearly $300.
So is it fair to blame MASN alone for the hike?
No. But if you are a sports nut, fan of the entertainment channels or news, we all pay for the cost of programming we enjoy.
Like it or not, that also means we help subsidize our local pro sports teams through MASN and CSN.