Q. I read your story about MASN not streaming the Washington Nationals and Baltimore Orioles games, but why don’t they? It doesn’t make any sense to me. Everything else is doing it. — Claire, Fairfax, Virginia.
Claire, you are right. MASN, the TV home of the Washington Nationals and Baltimore Orioles, has decided not to offer its games to live streaming services such as Sling TV and DIRECTV Now, which are less expensive than cable and satellite TV.
And not only that, the regional sports channel won’t even let its pay TV subscribers stream the games while away from home.
Only three MLB teams are refusing to offer in-market streaming for pay TV subscribers — the Nats, O’s and Dodgers — and only seven are refusing to offer their games to live streaming services — Nats, O’s, Dodgers, Mariners, Pirates, Rockies and the Astros.
The remaining 23 teams, and their regional TV partners, are on board with streaming, which some believe will entice more Millennials to watch baseball.
So what’s up with MASN? Why does the regional channel refuse to embrace what some are calling the future of television? Does it see something that almost every other team and its regional sports channel do not?
The Washington Post today published an article suggesting that MASN is balking because it fears losing advertising revenue.
“Cable advertising is aimed at a specific geographic audience, which provides assurances to ad-buyers that the eyeballs they reach are at least near their product. Ads on streaming services, which anyone in the world can access, don’t come with that same regional exclusivity,” the article states.
Problem is, that statement is wrong. Like cable and satellite, live streaming services only show professional games airing on regional sports channels to subscribers in their respective markets. For instance, a Washington DC.-based fan can not watch the New York Yankees on the Yes Network via DIRECTV Now. The channel is only available to subscribers in the Yes market, which is the New York area.
So MASN would have still ‘regional exclusivity’ if it decided to allow the live streamers to carry it. The Nats and Orioles games would only be made available to fans in the MASN market, which stretches from Baltimore to North Carolina.
If advertising was truly a concern, the other regional sports channels wouldn’t allow streaming, either. But it’s not a concern.
It’s somewhat understandable that the Washington Post would whiff on this issue, though, because MASN won’t explain why it won’t stream the games. Consequently, we journalists have to speculate on what could be motivating it.
My best guess is that MASN is reluctant to offer streaming because it would open up a new revenue source at a time when the Baltimore Orioles and Washington Nationals are still fighting over the channel’s revenues.
The dispute between the teams has gone on for several years, and there’s no end in sight. The Peter Angelos family, which owns the Orioles, and the overwhelming majority of MASN, may feel that adding streaming revenue could hurt its position in the fight which has been in and out of the courtroom.
Regardless of the uncertain reasoning, Claire, it’s quite certain to this reporter that nothing will change anytime soon. I don’t expect MASN to offer streaming in the 2018 season and maybe beyond that.
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— Phillip Swann