At a Hill hearing on the dearth of televised Washington Nationals baseball games in Washington Friday, Comcast planned to propose a solution to the impasse between the cable operator and Mid Atlantic Sports Network owner Peter Angelos.
Comcast Executive VP David Cohen is proposing that Major League Baseball and Angelos, owner of the Baltimore Orioles, return control of the National's TV rights to the team, which can then let all interested parties, including MASN and Comcast, negotiate for rights.
Angelos' regional sports net got the Nationals rights as part of an MLB deal to get the Orioles owners' OK to allow a team in nearby Washington, which he fearead would siphon fans from his own nearby team. Having the Nationals rights meant Angelos would also profit from the popularity of the new team.
Comcast and Angelos have been at odds over Angelos' decision to take back the rights to Orioles games from Comcast in 2007 to put on MASN.
Comcast says it had the right of first refusal on those games and that Angelos did not allow it to exercise that right. Comcast has refused to carry MASN and its full plate of Nationals games on its Washington cable systems, leaving some 1 million-plus subs with only the handful of games--40 actually--on broadcast TV.
That deficit spurred the hearing in the Government Reform Committee and prompted Senate Commerce Committee Chairman Ted Stevens (R-Alaska) to say he thought Congress or the FCC needs to step in to ensure that local TV viewers in general have access to the games of their local sports teams.
That could come through changes to a new telecommunications law his committee is considering or, specifically to the Comcast/Nationals issue, by getting the FCC to put program access conditions on its review of Comcast's deal to divvy up Adelphia cable systems with Time Warner.
Stevens has written the FCC asking it to consider that condition.