- The Washington Times - Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Like the Nationals, the Mid-Atlantic Sports Network is in a building phase. But while Washington’s baseball team is a few years away from contending, MASN is preparing to bust out big this season as it starts its first year broadcasting games of both the Orioles and Nationals.

Now in its third year, MASN will be fully distributed to nearly every cable provider in the region, a big change from most of the past two seasons.

“That helps a lot,” said Nationals president Stan Kasten. “Obviously, you can’t be in business without people seeing your product. That’s really important.”

MASN began offering round-the-clock programming last summer and ramped up its non-baseball coverage through exclusive deals with the Baltimore Ravens and Georgetown Hoyas.

Coverage of the region’s two baseball teams, however, is MASN’s calling card — the network was created as part of an agreement to allow the Nationals and Orioles to share broadcast territory. The Orioles own about 90 percent of the network and pay a rights fee to the Nationals, who hold a minority share.

With more than 300 games to be aired this season, MASN has had to create a second overflow channel, dubbed MASN2. Games aren’t televised in high-definition yet, but network officials are working on it.

“We’re light years ahead of where we were last year at this time,” MASN spokesman Todd Webster said. “We’re finally distributed throughout the entire region, but more importantly we have every single Orioles and Nationals game on a single network. There will be more insight, more analysis, more coverage of the teams.”

This year’s coverage also has some new wrinkles, including 30-minute pregame and post-game shows, plus sideline reporters. In the booth, the well-respected Bob Carpenter returns to do play-by-play for Nationals broadcasts, with Hall of Fame pitcher Don Sutton replacing Tom Paciorek as color analyst. Sideline reporting will be handled by Debbi Taylor.

“I think we’re seeing the tip of the iceberg of what MASN can be, and you can say that about the Nationals, too,” Sutton said.

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