This coming Friday, the Nationals are expected to find out how much money their 2013 television rights will be worth. According to what Tom Boswell wrote in the Washington Post May 18, the Nationals currently receive $29 million from the network, which is mostly owned by Baltimore Orioles owner Peter Angelos.
The three-member MLB committee that is hearing the Nationals' argument could award the team a significant amount more than the $29 million they get now, which would likely increase Washington's payroll flexibility and force relatively shallow-pocketed MASN to get creative in meeting its payroll.
Against this backdrop comes a ruling by a federal court that effectively keeps MASN off basic cable in North Carolina.
From the Washington Times:
The 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals this month upheld an order from the Federal Communications Commission allowing Time Warner Cable Inc. to leave the Mid-Atlantic Sports Network (MASN) and its sister station, MASN2, off its basic cable package in North Carolina.
And the FCC didn't pull any punches in defending its reasoning to the court, justifying its order in part by noting that the two teams have been so bad so often recently that it was "not surprising" baseball fans in North Carolina would prefer to watch another club's games.
The real problem here, however, is not with the cable company nor the FCC or the court. The problem is with Major League Baseball's asinine blackout policies, in which the right hand rarely seems to know what the left is doing.
To wit, again from the Times:
The region, whose fans identify more with Atlanta than the District or Baltimore, is nevertheless considered by baseball officials to fall within the Washington/Baltimore market, so the Time Warner decision not to carry the stations prompted complaints of discrimination from MASN.
Sometimes, you wonder if MLB succeeds in spite of itself. This is one of those times.