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RCN, MASN Reach Stalemate in Carriage Talks

RCN is informing its customers in the Washington, D.C. area that it has hit the wall in its talks with regional sports network Mid-Atlantic Sports Network (MASN) and that if a deal isn’t reached soon, thousands of its customers in that market may lose access to Washington Nationals and Baltimore Orioles baseball games.

“MASN is proposing unfavorable terms that will eventually lead to an increase in ALL customers’ bills, not just the ones who watch the channel,” RCN said on its website. “And MASN2 is primarily used for a handful of overflow games when two regional sports teams are playing on the same day at the same time (Washington Nationals, Baltimore Orioles). We simply are unable to agree to the terms demanded by MASN.”

RCN continued that for those reasons it would no longer be able to carry MASN and MASN2, beginning July 1.

In a statement on its website, MASN said the channels will not be offered on RCN after July 1, and hoped a deal could be reached.

“Unfortunately, RCN recently notified MASN that it is no longer able to provide MASN programming to its customers on the same basis as MASN’s other distributors,” MASN said on its website. “As a result, RCN will no longer deliver MASN effective July 1. We regret the inconvenience this will cause fans of MLB, Nationals, Orioles and MASN sports programming, and hope that RCN will be able to restore MASN programming to its customers in the future.”

The impasse is one that is expected to occur frequently as prices for regional sports networks continue to escalate. As customers opt for smaller and smaller video packages, paying high fees for sports they don’t watch is becoming just another reason to cut the cord.

According to a report in the Washington Post, the dispute is over penetration minimums. The paper said RCN wants to reduce the number of subscribers it guarantees will subscribe to the network, while MASN wants to keep the penetration level the same.

MASN also is embroiled in a years-long dispute with the Nationals over rights fees. According to the Post, in May a three-member panel of MLB’s revenue sharing committee ruled that MASN owed the Nationals $59 million per year between 2012 and 2016, or about $20 million more annually than the team was actually paid. The Orioles, which control MASN with an 80% ownership stake, are appealing the decision.

The issue of high costs and minimum penetrations will likely be a hot topic throughout the next couple of years. Sinclair Broadcast Group, which purchased 21 RSNs from The Walt Disney Co. in May, has several deals coming up for renewal in the next two years.