Angelos to testify on Nats' TV deal

Congressional panel questions why more games not carried by new network

April 05, 2006|By JEFF BARKER | JEFF BARKER,SUN REPORTER

WASHINGTON -- A congressional committee has invited Peter Angelos to testify at a hearing Friday on problems with the Washington Nationals' television deal, and the Orioles owner said he plans to show up and provide his version of why so few Nationals games are available to many fans.

The House Government Reform Committee hearing is called "Out at Home: Why Most Nats Fans Can't See Their Team on TV."

Some Washington fans have blamed Angelos and Major League Baseball for collaborating on setting up a regional sports network that - at least so far - has been unable to persuade cable giant Comcast to include the network. Adding the network to Comcast's lineup would allow many more fans to see the Nationals play.

Angelos said yesterday that Comcast has had many opportunities to carry Nationals games.

"Certainly, we want the Nationals games on. They've been offered to Comcast repeatedly," he said. "The only holdup is the recalcitrance of Comcast to do so. Cox [Communications] has done it. DirecTV has done it."

DirecTV reached a deal last year to carry the Nationals via the Mid-Atlantic Sports Network, which holds the team's broadcast rights. Cox reached agreement last month to show games to its northern Virginia subscribers.

Over-the-air stations - available without cable or satellite - are scheduled to carry barely more than a quarter of the Nationals' games this season in the Washington area, where Comcast is the largest cable provider.

Recently, Comcast accused Angelos of holding the Nationals' television rights hostage by seeking to impose fees that would cause an "unjustified price increase" for Comcast customers in order to carry the network. D'Arcy Rudnay, Comcast vice president for corporate communications, could not be reached for comment last night after Angelos said he expected to testify.

Comcast executive vice president David L. Cohen has also been invited to testify, as has Bob DuPuy, Major League Baseball president and chief operating officer. Others on the witness list include Washington mayor Anthony A. Williams, Gary McCollum of Cox, state Del. Peter Franchot of Montgomery County, Montgomery County Executive Douglas M. Duncan, Prince George's County executive Jack B. Johnson, Nationals fan Ian Koski and several northern Virginia elected officials.

Congress began to show interest in the dispute this year. In particular, two Virginia lawmakers - Republican Tom Davis and Democrat James P. Moran - have expressed concern about fans not being able to see games. Davis chairs the committee holding Friday's hearing.

MASN began broadcasting Nationals games last season, the club's first in Washington. Orioles games appear on Comcast SportsNet, but are to move to MASN next year.

According to Angelos, MASN is paying the Nationals $21 million this season to show the games, and the figure will rise to $25 million in 2007.

Angelos said his hope is: "If you live in D.C., you could watch both teams. And if you live in Baltimore, you could watch both teams."

Last year, Comcast filed a lawsuit alleging that the new network's plans violated its contract with the Orioles. The case was thrown out but is on appeal.

jeff.barker@baltsun.com

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