MASN, RCN at impasse on carriage deal

The Washington Post


RCN announced Friday that it has reached an impasse in negotiations with the Mid-Atlantic Sports Network, which broadcasts Washington Nationals and Baltimore Orioles games. If the sides cannot reach a deal by July 1, thousands of residents in the D.C. area will lose access to the teams’ telecasts on MASN and its sister station, MASN2.

In a statement posted to its website, RCN said: “MASN is proposing unfavorable terms that will eventually lead to an increase in all customers’ bills, not just the ones who watch the channel. . . . We simply are unable to agree to the terms demanded by MASN.”

Like all cable networks, MASN generates revenue through the fees that cable customers pay their subscribers for their packages. The trend of cord-cutting continues to squeeze both networks and cable companies.

“RCN recently notified MASN that it is no longer able to provide MASN programming to its customers on the same basis as MASN’s other distributors,” MASN said in a statement Friday night. “… We regret the inconvenience this will cause fans of MLB, Nationals, Orioles, and MASN sports programming and hope that RCN will be able to restore MASN programming to its customers in the future.”

The specific dispute between RCN and MASN is believed to be over a concept called penetration minimums. RCN offers a basic package that includes broadcast networks without cable channels and a more robust package that includes channels such as MASN, ESPN and CNN. Deals between networks and providers often call for a guarantee for a certain percentage of their subscribers to pay for a network.

With the carriage deal set for renewal between RCN and MASN, one industry expert believed that RCN, because of more customers preferring basic cable, wanted to reduce the percentage of its homes that it guaranteed would pay for MASN, while MASN wanted to keep the percentage the same.

According to S&P Global Market Intelligence, 14,991 homes in the D.C. area receive cable through RCN. RCN is in the fewest homes of the pay TV providers in the Washington designated market area. MASN does not offer a streaming option for viewers.

The Nationals and Orioles are part-owners of MASN, though the Orioles maintain a controlling stake in the network.

MASN and RCN have until July 1 to reach a deal, though there are no ongoing conversations between the sides.

The dispute 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 Washington should receive in TV rights fees. An MLB panel ruled earlier this year that the network owed the Nationals tens of millions of dollars. The network appealed in New York State Court.