Saturday, August 05, 2006

The Last Full Measure

Well I'll be darned. Out of nowhere, Comcast and MASN made nice yesterday and agreed to carry Nationals games starting September 1st. The games will come to homes like mine who have heretofore been unable to get MASN, just in time to watch Kory Casto else they call up in September. Hooray, kind of.

I find it interesting that this agreement, the terms of which had been so bitterly contentious, fell quickly into place mere days after the establishment of MASN as a 24/7 network. The lack of programming on MASN was always presented as an issue by Comcast, but the main point of contention seemed to be Comcast SportsNet's legal rights vis a vis Orioles broadcasts. Comcast hammered their assertion to Orioles broadcast rights over and over again, and used MASN's limited programming only as a supporting argument. Now it seems to be the last full measure that MASN needed to win the war.

Maybe Comcast just got tired of the fight. The cable giant's case had already been thrown out of court twice, and MASN clearly wasn't going to be destroyed in a war of attrition. Everyone from Congress to the FCC had gotten involved, and arbitration was staring the company right in the face. My guess is that in some lofty Comcast boardroom, the executive calculus was that the direct cost of endless litigation plus the indirect cost of widespread customer rage had become more expensive than making room for MASN. Well, duh!

The terms of the deal were't disclosed, which is too bad, because it would answer some still-outstanding questions about the ultimate RSN alignment in the Mid-Atlantic. Is this deal some sort of precursor to a merger of the two networks? Who will show Orioles games in 2007? We'll find out at some point, I suppose.

Like everything else surrounding the Nationals franchise, this "victory" comes at the heels of so much ill will that it feels a bit hollow. Still, the television situation was the major outstanding issue left over from what I will henceforth refer to as The Bad Old Days of September 2004-August 2006. Despite the horrid outing on the field, 2006 has been huge for the franchise, as all the pieces for long-term prosperity and stability have (apparently) fallen into place.

I think the 2007 season will begin a new era for the team. The casual fan can now watch games on TV and get motivated to come to more games. The word is out that RFK is now a friendlier experience, and people have responded to that even these last few homestands. If we re-sign Soriano (a casual-fan favorite), so much the better. This is a good day. I'm looking forward to watching the games at last!