Monday, March 07, 2005

Washington DC/Baltimore Sports Media Market

8. Washington DC

2.2 million Television Households

23. Baltimore

1.2 million Television Households

I am going to combine these two markets into one post, since prior to the Washington Nationals the Orioles claimed DC as their exclusive territory.

Home Team Sports was the original regional sports network in the DC area, launched in 1982. Viacom originally held 67% while Fox held 33%. In 2000, Viacom traded its share in HTS to Comcast for certain carriage rights of its cable networks on Comcast systems. Fox claimed it was supposed to have "tag-along" rights to participate in any sale, but because there was no dollar value assigned to the trade it claimed it did not have the ability to exercise this right. Fox had previously offered $250 million for Viacom's share but was rebuffed.

At the same time, Comcast also bought Midwest Sports Channel from Viacom and soon thereafter traded it for Fox's stake in HTS.

At that point Comcast had all three pro teams in the area locked up for some time. It has been rumored that Comcast might have interest in acquiring a baseball team (still a possibility) with the Orioles at the top of the list due to their strategic importance to the DC RSN business.

The Orioles have been in front of the ball with their television rights. They publicly announced creation of the Orioles network in early 2002 though their deal with Comcast doesn't expire until after the 2005 season. Until then, they plan on syndicating 70 or so games to area broadcast stations while keeping 90 games on SportsNet.

Now that the Washington Nationals are up and running in DC, Orioles owner Peter Angelos is seeking an MLB payout for the significant reduction in what used to be his teams' exclusive TV territory. He better get some cash out now, because his next round of negotiations with Comcast is likely to be sticky.

Kaiser Prediction: Both the Orioles and Nationals will end up with a significant number of games on Comcast (70-75). The remaining games of each team will end up on local broadcast stations.


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