Comcast, MASN Deal Puts Orioles, Nationals on a Pricier Cable Tier

With just 20 days to spare before Opening Day, Comcast and the Mid-Atlantic Sports Network (MASN) have come to terms on a deal that will keep the RSN on the operator’s Xfinity cable package. The catch: Orioles and Nationals fans in the Baltimore/D.C. metroplex will have to pay more in order to receive MASN’s signal, as the channel is being moved to a pricier tier.

The bump up to Comcast’s Ultimate TV package will cost fans in the DMV about $20 more per month, although that new rate will not be imposed immediately. Subscribers on the lower Popular TV tier who decide to upgrade will pay nothing for the first three months, whereupon they’ll see a $10 surcharge appear on their bills for months four, five and six. After the half-year induction phase, the full $20 fee will kick in.

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Last fall, Comcast reached a similar arrangement with the Seattle-based Root Sports, which upon the withdrawal of Warner Bros. Discovery from the RSN business is now 100% owned by the Mariners.

MASN last season enjoyed a big ratings lift courtesy of the high-flying Orioles, who put together a 101-61 record, winning the AL East for the first time since 2014. Baltimore’s in-market deliveries soared 65% compared to 2022 as the team notched a 4.23 average household rating, good for about 48,623 homes per game. The Nationals weren’t nearly as popular in their home DMA, averaging a 0.85 rating, or 22,250 homes per game, up 5% from the year-ago period.

“We’re pleased to have reached an agreement with MASN to continue carrying its networks,” a Comcast rep said in a statement issued Friday afternoon. “We appreciate MASN working with us to find a solution.”

The Orioles own 67% of MASN, with the remainder controlled by the Nationals. The Comcast deal comes in the wake of an agreement by the Angelos family to sell the team to a group of investors spearheaded by Baltimore native David Rubenstein. Per terms of the $1.73 billion transaction, Rubenstein, et al, will purchase nearly 40% of the club at the date of the official signing, and will assume the balance upon the death of Peter Angelos, who’ll turn 95 on July 4. The deal is pending approval of the MLB ownership committee.

Owned by the Lerner family, the $2.18 billion Nationals franchise has been on and off the market in recent years, as a conga line of suitors—including the likes of Rubenstein and Ted Leonsis—have kicked the tires on a deal. The byzantine structure of the MASN arrangement is said to have been a disincentive on the transactional front.

In December, MASN agreed to pay both the Orioles and Nationals $304 million each for their respective rights fees over the five-year stretch from 2017 to 2021, which works out to $60.8 million per year. The channel’s unique fee structure is a function of the very complicated rights-splitting deal that was reached when the Montreal Expos moved to D.C. in 2005.

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