Cable Operators

Nationals, Orioles Net Could Club Comcast

3/31/2005 8:53 AM Eastern

Major League Baseball’s Washington Nationals and Baltimore Orioles are expected to team up to start their own regional sports network in 2007, which could leave Comcast Corp.’s Mid-Atlantic RSN without significant summer sports programming.

MLB, which owns the Nationals last Thursday agreed to form a “joint venture” with the Orioles that will protect the Baltimore team from any “adverse effects” of having a new team enter into their TV market.

The Washington Post reported Thursday that those protections include the creation of a jointly owned network to be created in 2007 that would include both Orioles and Nationals telecasts.

The Orioles, which currently distribute 87 regular-season games on Comcast SportsNet Mid-Atlantic through a carriage deal that expires in 2006, have made noise in the past about starting their own network.

The creation of the network turns the tables on the MSO, which in the last year has siphoned off the rights to pro sports teams in Chicago and Sacramento to launch startup regional sports networks in those cities.

A Comcast spokesman confirmed that the MSO met Thursday morning with MLB and Orioles officials, but said no decisions regarding its future moves have been made. “We want to see what MLB, the Nationals and the Orioles have agreed to, said Comcast spokesman David Nevins. “After we see what they’ve agreed to, we’ll have more to say.”

A new regional sports network could deal a major blow to Comcast, which dominates the Mid-Atlantic regional sports marketplace.

September