Saturday, April 02, 2005

Cutting off your nose to spite your face?

Or a Chicken Little scenario?

From DCRTV:

No Cable Games For Nats This Season - 4/2 - DCRTV's sources tell us that if you're a Nationals fan, you'll have to be satisfied with the two or three games per week shown on Fox-owned UPN affiliate Channel 20/WDCA. Because that's about all you're going to get this season, TV-wise. The Orioles-backed Mid-Atlantic Sports network, which will eventually carry the Nats, will take at least a year to launch. Not to mention negotiating carriage deals with area cable operators, a la giant Comcast. And Comcast isn't going to sit still for competition to its Comcast SportsNet. Look for a court battle, even. There is a cable "wild card" - Allbritton's NewsChannel 8, which could carry some Nats games. But we hear that option is unlikely, since Allbritton has a close relationship with Comcast, and wouldn't want to compete with CSN.....

There are two immediate reactions that come to mind:

1) "Joke's on Angelos; he'll be paying ~ $21M for 76 over-the-air games."

2) "Man, from my point of view as a Nats' fan, this really stinks. I'll be missing a lot of games."

In reading the comments of some posters on the Ballpark Guys board, there's a third possible reaction:

3) "Yeah, I'm sure Angelos would guarantee all that money for 76 games. [roll-eyes emoticon]."

But there's perhaps another interpretation:

4) "Well, it makes little business sense for Angelos to limit the Nats games offered and to foreclose cable carriage, but nevertheless---as the DCRTV blurb seems to indicate---he might be stuck. It's fine to make the agreement to carry games over-the-air and on cable, but cable (and satellite) carriers have to agree to carry your RSN---and your RSN has to be up and running. After all, Comcast produces Angelos's O's TV telecasts, but it's doubtful Comcast would produce the Nats RSN telecasts."

Then there's the Sherman-burning-Atlanta scenario:

5) "Maybe Angelos's intent is to create an atmosphere that, at least in the media's eyes, recreates that of the Montreal Expos: limit the number of games on TV, invoke media comparisons to Expos' TV coverage at the end, hope the Nats don't take off too much popularly [ed. note: probably too late for that], hope the ballpark deal sometimes falls through [ed. note: probably too late for that, too], and make these words seem prophetic . . . :

"There are no real baseball fans in D.C. That's a fiction."
---Peter Angelos

. . . thereby lowering the sale price of the Nats and convincing MLB to look elsewhere, rendering the DC area as "his" again.

Yeah, I know: No. 5 is far-fetched. TREMENDOUSLY far-fetched. Maybe Baseball Prospectus will champion it.

And, finally, there is a sixth possibility:

6) "Hey, DCRTV's blurb notwithstanding, a cable [ed. note: and satellite---honestly, I care about cable, because I have it, not satellite] deal has been made! In that case, of you want, I guess you No. 3 guys can gloat."

There's emerging evidence on this front, thanks to an article referenced this morning by District of Baseball Jeff. He points to a Los Angeles Times article for the proposition that the Nats have hired Mel Proctor as their television play-by-play voice. That's excellent news, by the way. And read the article closely:

The Nationals this week finalized a local television package of 157 telecasts this season on cable and over-the-air. The Nationals' season opener is Monday at Philadelphia.

The Nationals and Phillies do not play Tuesday, when the Clippers play at Charlotte, but Proctor will miss the Clippers' game Wednesday at San Antonio.

Now note:

---> As Ballpark Guys poster Nats24Champs points out, there's affirmative language of a deal to air a total of 157 games "on cable and over-the-air."

But, one could respond, that sentence could merely refer to the agreement between MLB and Angelos---the television agreement itself. That agreement does not appear to incorporate any cable parties, and there's been no reporting by DC sources of a subsequent agreement involving a cable carrier. Consequently, one could include that, while MLB and Angelos have agreed to cable television for the Nats, no cable carrier actually has. There's a difference between intention and execution, after all.

--->Nats24Champs points to something more specific, though: The LA Times article says that Proctor will miss the Clipper's game on Wednesday. Insofas as he'll apparently do Tuesday's Clippers game in Charlotte, the inference is that Proctor will be announcing the Nats game on Wednesday. And here's Nats24's kicker: According to its schedule, Wednesday is NOT televised on UPN-20 .

Thus, unless Proctor will be announcing a game that is beamed to nobody, then either the article is in error or something else may be in the works.

Developing . . . , as they say.

Comments:
Does anybody remember the specific source on the "No baseball fans in D.C. quote?"
 
An interview with Angelos on WBAL radio in July 2004:

http://www.ericmcerlain.com/offwingopinion/archives/003534.php

If you're asking for a print source, look here and here.

Or go to William World News. ;-)
 
I'm somewhat worried about the cable issue, but given what's at stake I think it will work out. 76 games on free, over-the-air TV is pretty good, though -- it will increase the team's profile among the more casual fans, since folks won't have to go search them out on a sports-only network. Of course, they might be pissed if the OC is pre-empted.

After all of the Nats' suprisingly sane roster decisions and the news that Proctor will be the play-by-play guy, I have only one last request before the season starts: no Rob Dibble, for the love of God!
 
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