By Dave Hughes, DCRTV.com
Local sports fans can expect a big year for the Baltimore-based Mid-Atlantic Sports Network.
MASN first launched in 2005 with bare-bones coverage of the Washington Nationals. The following year, it added the Orioles, who jumped over from Comcast SportsNet.
This year, the network will feature every game from both teams in glorious high definition. Plus, MASN also provides fans with pregame and postgame shows and a wide variety of other sports, including Ravens shows.
The upcoming spring launch of MASN’s second HD channel, MASN2-HD, will allow the regional sports network to televise every Orioles and Nationals game -- that’s more than 320 games -- in “crystal-clear high definition.” Last season, MASN aired 210 games live in HD on MASN-HD.
“O's Xtra” and “Nats Xtra,” the network's exclusive pregame and postgame shows, will also be televised in HD, live and on location from the park during every home game.
With the 2010 launch of MASN2-HD, which will televise approximately 130 live games, MASN is positioned as “the leading regional sports network in the United States,” according to a network statement.
"MASN continues to set the standard for regional sports programming with national-caliber broadcast talent, state of the art in-game technology and the most in-depth coverage of the Nationals and Orioles," said MASN spokesman Todd Webster. "MASN is proud to be the first sports network in the region to offer every one of its professional games in high definition. And with every play and every game in HD in 2010, fans will be closer to the action than ever before."
"I continue to be impressed by MASN's commitment to providing our fans with the most technologically advanced and professionally-produced telecasts in all of Major League Baseball," said Orioles president of baseball operations Andy MacPhail. "They continue to push the envelope and set the standard for regional networks."
“We're very excited about the launch of MASN2-HD because this is great for our fans, who can now enjoy every single one of our games in crisp high definition," said Nationals president Stan Kasten.
Jim Williams, who covers local sports media for Examiner.com, said it was Comcast SportsNet’s already established excellence, forged from many years as the previous Home Team Sports network, that forced MASN to get up to speed so fast.
“MASN couldn’t come out of the box looking sloppy," he said. "They went from being a start-up to competing with an established regional sports network in just five years.”
Carrying two baseball teams, and the ability to put them all on MASN in HD, is “quite amazing,” Williams said.
Webster pointed out MASN's stakes in big investments, including one of the first super slo-mo cameras to show baseball’s detailed pitches, plus state-of-the-art, on-location studios at both Camden Yards and Nationals Park for live pregame and postgame shows.
Williams, a broadcast veteran who has set up regional sports networks around the country, including Florida’s Sunshine Network, points to the “forward-thinking management” at MASN, including vice president/executive producer Chris Glass and executive vice president of programming and marketing Jim Cuddihy.
“They realized initially that they couldn’t compete with CSN," Williams said, "so they forged a relationship with ESPN and focused, in the early days, on giving the viewers a live game every night. MASN also fleshed out its relationship with the Ravens because CSN has such close ties to the Redskins.
“MASN has come a long way, considering what it had to start with. [In the past,] nobody had launched a regional sports net from scratch with two major baseball teams. I’ve watched every every sports network out there. CSN-Washington has set the golden standard among all Comcast regional sports networks. Still, MASN comes right up to that gold standard. Both networks have made each other better.”
Issue 145: January 2010