Ballclubs Set TV Rosters


The 2006 Major League Baseball season is a week old, and several teams, after concluding significant carriage deals, are finally playing ball with just about every major cable and satellite distributor in their respective markets.

But Mid-Atlantic Sports Network, home to the Washington Nationals, and Comcast Corp. continue to play catch with each other, seeking an end to their year-long carriage dispute.

In the New York area, SportsNet New York, controlled by an ownership group affiliated with the New York Mets, Time Warner Cable and Comcast, inked deals on April 6 with Blue Ridge Communications, Patriot Media and EchoStar Communications Corp.’s Dish Network.

With the Dish deal, SportsNet New York, which will televise 125 Mets games this season, gained a key addition to that is still missing from the roster of its rival, Yankees Entertainment & Sports Network.

The agreements come on the heels of deals scored on April 4 with DirecTV and, last month, with Cablevision Systems Corp. The service now claims access to 7.5 million homes out of a target market of 8.5 million households.

In Cleveland on April 3, Fastball Sports Productions LLC, controlled by Indians’ owner Larry Dolan and his family, cut a carriage deal with DirecTV, completing distribution for SportsTime Ohio, the Tribe’s new TV home, in the Cleveland market and other service areas. The network will televise 130 Indians games, rights previously held by FSN Ohio.

Fans of the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim will have a chance to view 100 of their team’s games on Fox Sports Net West as part of a ninth-inning pact reached April 2.

FSN West and the club — which has begun exploring whether to start a regional-sports network in 2009 — reached a deal said to be worth $500 million over 10 years for 100 contests per season, versus 50 games slated for a contract that would have expired after 2008.

In the nation’s capital, Comcast made another pitch to Major League Baseball April 7 in an attempt to gain access to Nationals games.

During a congressional hearing before the House Government Reform Committee, Comcast said it would immediately telecast live Nationals games — currently airing on MASN — on the Comcast SportsNet Mid-Atlantic regional sports service if the league and Baltimore Orioles owner Peter Angelos would return the Nationals TV rights to the team.

That way Comcast, officials said, it could compete with MASN for those rights next season.

MASN — co-owned by Angelos and MLB — was created last year as part of a package to compensate Angelos for the former Montreal Expos’ move to Washington in 2005. MASN currently airs 154 live Nationals games and will also hold the rights to Orioles games in 2007, after a deal with CSN Mid-Atlantic expires.

Under Comcast’s proposal, MLBwould have to find an alternative way to compensate Angelos.

If baseball and Angelos agree, Comcast said it will immediately begin airing Nationals cable games at the same price MASN is currently paying the team — an estimated $21 million. The Nationals could then sell local-television rights next year to the highest bidder, according to Comcast.