By Dave Hughes
So far this season, the Orioles' TV ratings are up 3 percent from last year. The team's games, which air on MASN, MASN2 and Channel 13/WJZ, are averaging a 4.55 TV audience share in the Baltimore market, equal to about 49,900 households.
Down in Washington, D.C., the Nationals have had a 53 percent jump for their TV broadcasts on MASN, MASN2 and Channel 50/WDCW.
The Washington Post's Dan Steinberg said that although MASN declined to provide ratings numbers until the end of the quarter, a source with access to Nielsen data said the Nats were averaging a 2.22 share in the Washington market, up from a 1.45 at this point a year ago.
That's an average of about 52,400 households in this market – and it's a higher number than the Capitals or Wizards have averaged during recent seasons.
The Washington Times reports that the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in late May upheld an order from the Federal Communications Commission allowing Time Warner Cable to leave the Baltimore-based MASN and its sister station, MASN 2, off basic cable in North Carolina.
Baseball officials considered the region part of the extended Baltimore/Washington, D.C., market, even though many fans identify more with Atlanta than Baltimore or D.C., so the Time Warner decision not to carry the stations prompted complaints of discrimination from MASN, according to the Times report.
The ruling follows a lengthy legal battle and means that, because of Major League Baseball's blackout restrictions that give priority to local broadcasters instead of national ones, most Nats and O's fans in the Tar Heel State cannot watch their "home" teams live.
In 2005, MASN started televising Nationals games. In 2007, it added the Orioles to its schedule and unsuccessfully prodded Time Warner to carry the station on the basic tier of its cable package in North Carolina.
In 2008, an FCC arbitrator and the FCC's media bureau both ruled in favor of the network, but Time Warner appealed. In 2010, the FCC reversed the two decisions, saying Time Warner provided legitimate and nondiscriminatory reasons for not carrying MASN on its basic tier in the state, according to the Times. MASN took the fight to the courts, where the 4th Circuit issued its recent ruling.
A statement from MASN said the latest decision disappointed network executives, and they would keep looking for opportunities to make the station available to Time Warner Cable subscribers in North Carolina -- other cable providers in the state, such as DirecTV, are making MASN available via satellite services.
Time Warner spokesman Keith Poston said in a statement that the company's decisions "were made for valid business reasons, and were in no way the result of improper discrimination against MASN."
The Times noted that a recent survey by Time Warner asked 500 North Carolinians which sports teams they follow. None mentioned the Nationals. Four mentioned the Orioles, and 25 other professional sports teams were mentioned more times than the Orioles.
Posted June 28, 2012