MASN, Comcast reach agreement

MASN, Comcast reach agreement

WASHINGTON -- Comcast and the Mid-Atlantic Sports Network reached a deal Friday that will finally allow baseball fans in the Washington area to see the Washington Nationals on television starting in September.

The agreement means that MASN will be made available to 1.6 million Comcast customers by Sept 1. in the Washington D.C., Baltimore and Salisbury, Md., areas.

The network will then be made available to 600,000 more customers over the next two years.

"We are pleased to have reached this agreement with Comcast, which will allow both the Nationals and the Orioles to maximize their exposure throughout the territory," Baltimore Orioles owner Peter Angelos said in a released statement.

The majority of MASN is owned by the Orioles and the network is set to take over Baltimore's games next season after its deal with Comcast SportsNet expires.

Comcast has been trying to block that move and had been refusing to carry Nationals games.

The agreement ends a long dispute between the two sides, which goes back to when the Nationals moved to Washington from Montreal.

It also comes days after the Federal Communications Commission decided to let MASN pick between a judge or an arbitrator to resolve the lengthy dispute.

The network had until Friday to make that choice.

"Comcast is pleased that we have finally been able to negotiate an agreement with MASN that will result in the imminent airing of Washington Nationals games, Comcast executive vice president David L. Cohen said in a statement. "We have always supported the return of baseball to Washington and have wanted to carry the Nationals games for our customers as quickly as possible."

Federal and local leaders have tried a number of tactics designed to force an agreement between the two sides.

At one point, three Washington-area House members asked the Federal Communications Commission to make Comcast's proposed merger with Adelphia Communications contingent on Comcast submitting to binding arbitration dispute over airing of Washington Nationals baseball games.

Washington Mayor Anthony A. Williams even signed a bill that would require Comcast to put the Nationals on television in the District.

"It's about time," Williams said in a statement Friday night. "This is great news for fans who have welcomed the Nationals to D.C. and want to watch (Alfonso) Soriano on TV as he bangs in those home runs."

MASN has said its failure to reach households served by Comcast has prevented 1.3 million potential Nationals fans from seeing the team regularly on local television.