The Washington Nationals are awaiting a June 1 deadline to find out how much their 2013 television rights will be worth. Industry reports have the team asking MASN for anywhere from $90 to $110 million a year. MASN felt that the Nationals' rights increase was too high so a committee created by Major League Baseball with owners from the Pittsburgh Pirates, Tampa Bay Rays and the New York Mets will determine a fair market value.
The Nationals currently get about $29 million a year from MASN, which puts them well behind the Mets and the Phillies in the National League East.
According to their deal with MASN, the Nationals are exercising their reset clause which allows the team to reopen the deal every five years to assure they are getting fair market rates.
There's been a recent trend of teams cashing in on new deals. The Los Angeles Angels' new TV contract is worth $95 million a year, while both the Texas Rangers and Houston Astros are banking $80 million a year from their new deals with Fox Sports Southwest and Comcast SportsNet Houston respectively. The Fox Sports San Diego deal has the Padres earning $50 million a year in the nation's 28th-largest media market. With Washington being the nation's ninth-largest media market, many broadcast sources feel the Nationals will be in line to get in the $70 to $90 million a year range. The sources also said that it was in the best interest of the MLB committee to keep the number high so other teams gain leverage.
What should concern MASN is the network has agreed to pay the Orioles whatever the Nationals receive.
Taking the low estimate of $70 million a year -- $140 million annually for both teams -- to pay out in rights fees to the Nationals and Orioles, there's no way the network could make up that money without going back to cable companies and looking for a rate adjustment. That cost would be before they spent any money on production, programming or the simple cost of running a network.
MASN doesn't have the deep pockets of Fox or Comcast, so they would need to be creative. But they have options and would not go away. MASN could find a new partner like Fox, Cox or Root Sports. The network is well run and their management is bright, and they will figure out the best plan for it to move forward.
Examiner columnist Jim Williams is a seven-time Emmy Award-winning TV producer, director and writer. Check out his blog, Watch this!