- The Washington Times - Tuesday, December 5, 2006

Last April, Baltimore Orioles owner Peter Angelos sat before a Congressional committee to defend the Mid-Atlantic Sports Network, his fledgling enterprise that appeared to be making everyone’s life miserable. Baseball fans were unhappy. Cable companies were unhappy. Lawmakers were unhappy.

How, members of Congress asked, can you demand that cable companies carry your network when all you’re showing is Washington Nationals games?

The other content is coming, Angelos insisted. We’ll be a 24/7 sports network in short order.

Well, nine months later, things are finally starting to come together.

After Comcast, the region’s largest cable provider, agreed to carry the network back in September, MASN began rolling out different programming. It began with small stuff, like simulcasts of radio shows, ESPNews feeds and some replays of old Orioles games. The network added some programming related to the Ravens, including a coach’s show.

It wasn’t earth-shattering stuff at first. But then college basketball season started.

MASN quickly became one of the go-to places for college hoops, picking up a horde of ESPN Plus telecasts, including a plethora of games involving local teams. Suddenly, games that wouldn’t otherwise have been on TV in the D.C. and Baltimore region were being aired. Games from the Big Ten, Big East and smaller conferences were getting air time they never had in this area. Yesterday, MASN announced it is now the official network of Georgetown basketball. Overall, the network expects to air 150 college basketball games this year.

MASN still has some work to do to catch up with Comcast SportsNet for dominance in the regional sports landscape. CSN, after all, still has rights to Wizards and Capitals games, as well as Maryland basketball and the ACC. MASN produces a lot less programming in-house, and CSN also devotes plenty of time and resources to the Redskins, which will always dominate the attention of sports fans in the D.C. area.

MASN will probably continue to have detractors, particularly here in Washington, as Angelos will always own a majority of the network, leaving the perception the Orioles essentially wield control over the broadcast rights for the Nationals.

But know this: while you’re watching both Orioles and Nationals games on MASN next year, you’re watching a legitimate, 365-day sports network that has a lot more going for it than it did 12 months earlier.

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