Category Archives: Television

anti-masn

Could MASN be a Pyrrhic victory for Peter Angelos? Let’s hope so.

Earlier this month, Grantland published a story by chronicler of Les Expos de Montréal, Jonah Keri on the Baltimore Orioles and their reluctance to spend. That’s nothing new or of even relevant to D.C. sports fans. What is relevant are details of Mid Atlantic Sports Network (MASN) which is primarily owned by Angelos/Orioles.

In 2005, MLB and Angelos worked out a deal allowing the Nationals to operate in D.C. in exchange for a new local TV deal that overwhelmingly favored the Orioles. In July 2006, the Mid-Atlantic Sports Network launched a full-time sports programming slate headlined by O’s and Nats games. The terms dictated that each franchise would receive the same amount in rights fees, but that Baltimore would control a 90 percent share of MASN and any MASN-owned spinoff networks at the start; the Nationals would pick up an additional 1 percent stake each year after an initial two-year wait, until eventually reaching a 33 percent cap. Angelos got his lopsided deal, while the Nationals, who play in the nation’s seventh-biggest market, got screwed.

While the Orioles are bringing in quite a bit more than the Nationals, neither team is profiting from MASN as much as it could be. According to SNL Kagan, a group that analyzes cable and broadcast network deals as well as regional sports networks (RSNs), MASN properties generated $167.8 million in total revenue in 2012. The bulk of that money came from advertising and subscriber fees, with 5.4 million consumers paying $2.14 a month. That’s well below the $2.47 industry average for 2012 and $2.69 projection for 2013, and several of the media experts and sports deal makers interviewed for this story said MASN should be getting much more. Comcast SportsNet Mid-Atlantic, which primarily airs Washington Capitals and Wizards regular-season games, got $4.02 per month in 2012, indicating the market would likely support a higher rate for MASN. It’s hard to know whether to blame the network’s low subscriber fee on inept management, the timing of the deal, or other factors, but whatever the reason, it’s clear MASN will be leaving tens of millions on the table until it renegotiates with local cable providers.

First off, I have to acknowledge that while the “low” subscriber fee is bad for the revenue of the franchises, it’s not a negative for cable subscribers whether they watch those channels or not. It won’t go as far to say that Angelos is “saving” cable subscribers by having the “low” rate because if not for him, CSN would probably have the Nats and we were already paying for that channel. Angelos was successful in keeping MASN off of most DC area cable systems well into 2006, the Nats second season.

There are more interesting details:

For now, the MASN status quo remains. The Nationals aren’t completely helpless, though: According to a source close to the Washington franchise, MLB has sent the team an undisclosed sum every year to help bridge the gap, and to prevent the Lerners from taking matters to court, until the deal becomes more balanced…

…when the Lerner family bought the Nationals in 2006, it was saddled with this lemon of a deal, in which neither it nor the team’s first president, Stan Kasten, had any say. The terms stipulated that the deal could be renegotiated after five full seasons, and the Nats took their first opportunity to challenge the terms after the 2011 season. When that challenge dragged into 2012, those terms looked even more unfair. After spending years rebuilding a franchise that had been decimated by penny-pinching and mismanagement in Montreal, the Nats finally made the playoffs for the first time, winning 98 games and the NL East title. That same year, the Orioles made the postseason for the first time in 15 seasons. MASN viewership skyrocketed, enhancing the network’s already rising economic profile, but the Nats saw just a fraction of the returns.

The suggestion that the team or possibly, the Lerner family themselves, are getting payola under the table additional compensation is new to me. Whether that statement is accurate or not will certainly not be mentioned by the Lerners (see, publicly financed Nationals Park roof for reference) so we’ll have to take this cocktail party supposition with a grain of salt. An aside – several years ago I heard a rumor from a one-time employee that in addition to the $450 million purchase price, the Lerner ownership also assumed over $100 million in debt from when MLB operated the franchise. Of course, I’ve had mixed results from that source.

Given that the Lerner family is the richest in MLB, they may have the patience to wait this out a while and if they get a little good behavior money on the side, well, why not. There is risk in that as well, but TV deals have gone up so much across the league, they seem unlikely to regress all the way back.

The motivations of Angelos on the other hand, are not completely clear. As the rest of the article notes, he hasn’t not been a big spender for most of his tenure as Orioles owner (BREAKING: Since I finished writing this post, Baltimore signed Ubaldo Jimenez for four years to which Cleveland fan Vince Guerreri invoked Bill Veeck’s maxim about “the high cost of mediocrity“), this offseason being another example of that and doesn’t seem motivated by his team winning on the field. Seemingly, his motivation for being loved, liked or even respected by his fan base is not significant either — he has had a dozen years to bring Maryland’s favorite son Cal Ripken, Jr. into a meaningful role with the franchise and choose not to go that way. Hiring Ripken would be at minimum on par with bringing in Dan Duquette to take credit for Andy McPhail’s improvements. It seems as though Angelos, in addition to being duplicitous (2004: “There are no baseball fans in Washington, D.C., that’s a fiction.” 2010: What’s good for the Nationals is good for MASN) lacks business sense. Perhaps he is self-aware of that, but it isn’t a stretch to say he’s more motivated to be vindictive. What’s really weird is that he and the Orioles still enjoy relatively uncritical coverage in either his home market of Baltimore or the market he is envious of, Washington, even though he isn’t good at his job.

Another possibility is that the three main participants are quite old. Selig will be 80 in July and has pushed back his retirement date for years. Officially, he plans to step down at the beginning of 2015. Angelos will be 85 in July while Lerner is 88. The three of them could be punting or should I say, pitching around the hitter, to the next generation. That’s not necessarily bad for the Nats, the next commissioner may not have a friendship with Angelos. Of course, what the descendents of the principal owners want and are willing to do is an unknown, though Mark Lerner and his brothers-in-law seem to be in for the long haul. Whehther Angelos’ family is the same I cannot say.

Left unsaid in Keri’s piece is a wild card in all of this – Ted Leonsis. The owner of Monumental Sports & Entertainment, holding company of the Washington Capitals, Wizards, Mystics and Verizon Center, has won’t shut up been very vocal about his plans to create a new cable channel as soon as his broadcast deals with CSN expire, going as far to start an online channel. Obviously, CSN and unless Angelos is really oblivious, MASN, have to be quite interested in this development. For CSN, they are looking at extinction unless they reach a deal with Leonsis. Angelos and MASN probably realize that too and should they team up with Leonsis, that channel would be the dominant sports channel in multiple regional markets without any meaningful competition — i.e. what Angelos wanted from MLB and lost, yet on terms very favorable to him, even if he lacks the business-sense to make it work. Of course the question is whether split profits would be a deterrent to some or all sides. CSN is but one small part of the Comcast empire that includes, many other RSNs, cable/broadband systems and something called the National Broadcasting Company. Fighting over the DC & Baltimore markets might not be a big deal to the diagonally integrated corporate conglomerate.

These are but a few possible scenarios presented and I’ve looked at it more at a mostly local & regional level; FOX Sports or some other corporation may want to be a player too. Ultimately, I expect the endgame to be not terribly palatable to Washingtonians or the Nats franchise. The likeliest situation has Angelos and not necessarily the Baltimore American League ball club coming out far ahead of anybody else. The Lerners may ultimately buy him out, holding their noses as they do it. Regardless, it is worth pointing out that the demise of the Baltimore Orioles is an acceptable, albeit unlikely outcome, for the Washington National League ball club and their fans should it result in the restoration of television rights. Since in the Angelos and Orioles point of view, Washingtonians were acceptable as collateral damage, the same can be applied to Baltimoreans. Perhaps Mr. Keri’s city would be a suitable relocation site for Orioles, whose lease ends in 2021.

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Nats grievances for Thursday, May 30, 2013

The Washington Nationals lost another one to the team they are forced to subsidize, the Baltimore Orioles. I gotta a lot of problems right now!

3. MASN using broadcasters of both teams

I don’t care about the Baltimore angle on the sportscast, I don’t care about promotions at Orioles Park, etc. It is a stupid agreement that nobody likes – On the MASN split booths DC Sports Bog

2. Nats blow 6-2 lead

The Nats were rolling with Ryan Zimmerman hitting three home runs. Jordan Zimmerman though, after 78 innings this season, finally pitched a bad one. It was really bad. Seven Baltimore runners crossed home plate in the inning. Tyler Clippard couldn’t stop the bleeding much either.

“It’s tough to have a night like that and not be able to kinda celebrate it and have fun, because we lost,” said Zimmerman.

I’m in agreement with the face of the franchise on that one.

1.) The Nats TV rights being given to Peter Angelos (default)

Bad idea in 2005, bad idea now. This joint booth is an annoyance, but the whole corrupt bargain is the bigger problem. You can follow along via the category Peter Angelos is a Coward and by the tag MASN Sucks. How bad is the arrangement? It made me take Comcast’s side back in the day.

As for the final game of the Battle of the Beltways, only…Dan Haren can save us now?

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Smokin’ Al Koken’s origin story

The Washington Capitals made their seemingly traditional first round exit on Monday and while that is still being discussed (remember, D.C. isn’t a hockey town at all) I’m post, for posterity, recent coverage of rink side broadcaster, Smokin’ Al Koken. Dan Steinberg has been profiling Koken, who was “present at the creation” of the Caps, on DC Sports Bog but all in a long feature.

‘Smokin’ ’ Al Koken has ties to Capitals and Washington, D.C., sports going back to 1970sThe Post

Koken’s Caps responsibilities allowed enough free time to serve as the third sports anchor at WUSA along with Ken Mease and Brenner. Among Koken’s duties was doing live interviews from RFK Stadium during Redskins postgame shows, and out of nowhere one weekend, Brenner threw it back to “Smokin’ Al Koken” at the stadium.

The WUSA sports desk kept the nickname going over the objections of the station’s news director, who worried that it sounded unprofessional.

“Whenever Glenn threw to him, he’d say Smokin’ Al Koken,” said Larry Duvall, then a sports producer at WUSA and now with Comcast SportsNet. “I would type in ‘Smokin’ Al Koken,’ like it was his official name. The news director would say, ‘No, no, no, we shouldn’t do that.’ But Glenn said, ‘Aw, c’mon, keep doing it,’ so we just kept going.”

Being nicknamed by Glenn Brenner equals all-time cred in DC sports.

Today, DC Sports Bog has Al Koken, from the archives which features a pre-Smokin’ prior to the first Caps game.

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Nats-Orioles “relationship” is “complicated” because the Orioles are subsidized cowards

On common ground, Orioles and Nationals have complicated relationshipThe Sun
Oh, the Washington Nationals and Baltimore Orioles have a complicated relationship? That’s the fault of MLB commissioner Bud Selig, Peter Angelos and his franchise. Selig coddled Angelos when he didn’t have to:

When the Nationals, after 36 seasons as the Montreal Expos, arrived in Washington for the 2005 season, MLB said the team’s operating territory would be defined in the Major League Baseball Constitution, the occasionally amended governing agreement among the 30 clubs. At the time of the Nationals’ move, the document defined the Orioles’ territory as the city of Baltimore and the counties of Anne Arundel, Baltimore, Carroll, Howard and Harford. It did not include Washington, even though the Orioles then had a retail store there.

That’s right — I can’t get a Sun at a local newspaper box cluster or watch Baltimore television stations. D.C. and Baltimore simply aren’t the same market.

Selig handed over the supermajority of the Nats TV rights to Angelos, who doesn’t believe Baltimore fans are good enough to support a team. Two cowards, one fearing a lawsuit, the other regional competition, punished Washington fans and the District of Columbia who made a significant investment in Nationals Park. Most Washingtonians couldn’t even watch every Nats game until September 2006. MASN’s coverage is still not very good. Angelos and the Orioles are still fighting MLB and the Nats over TV rights compensation for the next 5 year cycle. Since the Orioles are contractually bound to receive the same amount of MASN revenue, Angelos is actually fighting reinvesting into the team. Don’t the Oriole-fanboys and Angelos apologists (is there a difference?) realize that the owner doesn’t want to invest into his own team?

If Angelos hadn’t been such a crybaby, there could a better situation for all involved, but his desire to hurt Washington more than help Baltimore prevented that from happening. I’d be completely indifferent to the Orioles for the most part if he had not kept me from watching my team and demanded a subsidy from it. Otherwise, I’d be going to see the Nats and New York Yankees in Baltimore annually. This is why I have called on all Washingtoinans to boycott the Orioles for years and will continue to do so.

There is no timetable for this bad situation getting resolved, but Selig and Angelos won’t be in power forever, right? I think the 2018 battle is going to be the most important battle.

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New MASN dugout reporter will be Julie Alexandria; Nats take Marlins series

First off, I overslept this morning so I didn’t get to blog about Ross Detwiler (more like BOSS DETWILER) pitching really well again and Bryce Harper going 4 for 5 while battling flu-like symptoms (DC Sports Bog, The Post) in a 6-1 win over the Miami Marlins. Good to get that curly W flag waving on the right side again. Now, moving on…

I half-jokingly suggested several times on twitter that the new dugout reporter for Washington Nationals telecasts on MASN would be Mike O’Connor, briefly a pitcher with the team. I said this because I had heard he was trying to get into the broadcasting business and as a former Nat with local ties (George Washington University and Howard County, Md.) he might have that going for him. So, not a blind guess, but maybe a near sighted one?

The actual choice is somebody named Julie Alexandria

I don’t think she and D.C. are related, but good name. We can only hope that Virginia Arlington and a Montgomery Rockville are someday involved with the franchise.

Nonetheless, she is on twitter at @JulieAlexandria and is already more interesting than her predecessor:

Somebody also RT’ed something she said about Star Wars.

Alexandria has worked with the Mets, Maury Povich (a NATS FAN1!!11!!1) and MTV among other things. @dcsportsbog tweeted this press release that mentioned “Julie is an avid Mets fan, with an AL West crush on the Angels.” There was also a post about her.

I don’t care too much about the dugout reporters, but it’ll be interested to see if she has to dodge as many Gatorade dumps as Kristin Akra. For the most part, I blogged about her because @SteveRep44′s excellent tweet.

Alexandria is expected to start during the next homestand.

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R.I.P. Pat Summerall

Another great voice has left us — Pat Summerall, who for so many years handled play-by-play for NFC football games along side John Madden on CBS and then FOX. Prior to my time, it was Tom Brookshier working with Summerall. It seemed every autumn Sunday, Summerall and Madden would be in some NFC East city or maybe Chicago or San Francisco doing the 4 p.m. game which we watched by a roaring fire. As television memories go, they were some of the best.

Summerall was a rather restrained in his play-by-play, mostly letting the picture tell the story. His smooth voice added excitement and gravitas that somebody like Joe Buck could only dream of having. Summerall also knew that he was the straight man, setting up John Madden‘s excitable and thorough analysis. In their prime, they were the best and it wasn’t close. The pairing was the measuring stick for how important the game was — when the Washington Redskins and Dallas Cowboys had a Sunday game without Summerall and Madden, it was a story in D.C.

I’m sure I’m not the only one who can still hear Summerall winding down a broadcast with “Stay tuned for “60 Minutes” followed by “Murder She Wrote” and the CBS Sunday Night Movie… (EXCEPT ON THE WEST COAST)” He was a natural. In addition to football, Summerall also did golf and tennis for CBS.

When FOX shocked everybody by taking over the NFC rights, Summerall and Madden moved over to the fourth network, lending more credibility to its coverage than it deserved. As much as I may have liked the Simpsons, it was still a bit grating to hear Summerall promote “Married…with Children, the Simpsons, etc.” It wasn’t long after the switch to FOX that Summerall began a decline, mostly due to age.

Before becoming a sportscaster, Summerall was a kicker in the NFL, mostly with the Chicago Cardinals, but most famously with the New York Football Giants. In fact, one of the surprising things about long-time Yankee Stadium p.a. announcer Bob Sheppard was that when asked about his favorite moment it wasn’t about the Yankees:

Mara recalled how Phil Rizzuto once asked Sheppard on TV during a rain delay for his fondest Yankee Stadium moment.

“Much to The Scooter’s dismay, Bob replied, ‘The day Summerall kicked the field goal in the snow to beat Cleveland in 1958,’” Mara said.

- From: Bob Sheppard’s funeral: a majestic voice stilledAP/FOX News

Here is how Sports Illustrated covered the story in 1958 49 Yards And One Foot Here is a gallery too.

Also, Summerall, born George Allen Summerall, picked up “Pat” as a child from an uncle, not because he kicked the “point after touchdown” according this USA Today column: Hiestand: Much more to Summerall than TV persona

CLIPS!

Darrell Green’s punt return touchdown against the Chicago Bears in 1987-88 playoffs

Green again, one week later. Maybe not the best example, but I don’t think many Washingtonians will complain…

Week 15 of the 1983 season opener between the Redskins vs. Cowboys

The beginning of the last CBS broadcast, the 1993 NFC Championship Game. The pool halls scene is nothing special , but what follows is perfect Summerall narration and a subtle, but appropriate sendoff.

The NFL doesn’t have embeddable videos, but here are a couple of good ones on the Giants Web site: Pat Summerall: A life remembered | Frank Gifford looks back on Pat Summerall’s career


MORE COVERAGE

Pat Summerall and the Redskins – D.C. Sports Bog, The Post

Pat Summerall, football broadcaster, dies at 82The Post

The Voice of the SeasonSports on Earth

Pat Summerall, Star Kicker With Giants and a Calm Voice on TV, Dies at 82The Times

Pat Summerall, longtime voice of the NFL for CBS and Fox, where teamed up with John Madden, dead at 82NY Daily News

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There will be at least 29 Nats games you won’t need to tune to MASN to watch

When it came out that 20 Washington Nationals games would be broadcast on Ch. 9 (WUSA) instead of Ch. 50 (WDCW), I joked about how great it is that we could watch the Nats on VHF instead of UHF:

DC Sports Bog (The Post) has a good post on what Ch. 9′s thinking was on carrying the Nats: WUSA 9 will simulcast 20 Nats games in 2013

As others pointed out to me, I was viewing this through the narrow lens of an everyday Nats fan. Technically speaking, in the age of digital cable being on a low number channel is irrelevant, but as several pointed out the promotional opportunities of being on Ch. 9 are much greater. I’ll concede the point and eagerly await the ratings report from DC Sports Bog.

We also learned yesterday that nine games through the end of July will be carried on FOX. Some of them will be in primetime. Now, if you are of the mind the Nats tend to lose on national TV, don’t get too worried — these games will be a part of a package meaning that some or even many of them will be regional broadcasts. Don’t be surprised if Bob Carpenter is doing the play-by-play, he did last year.

The real upside of all of this is there will be at least 29 Nats games that viewers won’t have to rely on MASN to watch. While we all know it, it is worth reminding everyone about the absolute travesty of a TV “deal” the Nats and their fans are forced to endure. Bud Selig pushed a corrupt bargain between Baltimore Orioles owner Peter Angelos and the Nats when the franchise was still owned by MLB. Selig coddled Angelos by giving 90% of the Nats television rights. Angelos then hastily set up a cable channel called Mid Atlantic Sports Network with poor production values and even poorer market penetration. Angelos kept MASN off most major DC area cable systems through 2005 and well into 2006 — killing momentum for the new Washington franchise. The bad faith served Angelos in two ways — viewers didn’t make the Nats a habit, helping stifle ratings to keep the “rights fee” he had to pay the Nats low. This also helped slow the growth of the D.C. fanbase which Angelos mistakenly felt entitled to. Even now, Angelos is fighting the Nats in the latest round of rights fees. He may wrap himself around the Baltimore and Maryland flags, but he’s naked underneath. His fight to “protect the Orioles for te people of Baltimore and Maryland” is nothing more than him trying to line his pockets. So, in short, any chance to avoid supporting that coward and his cable channel should be welcomed and these 29 games on “over-the-air” channels gives the opportunity.

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Nats: Bryce Harper did a better job than Jimmy Kimmel, but beat writers can’t agree on clown question

Washington Nationals Rookie of the Year Bryce Harper went on the Jimmy Kimmel Show last night and performed better than the host. They mostly bantered about being from Las Vegas, his call-up to the majors and of course, something we’ve all moved on from, “that’s a clown question, bro.” There was disagreement amongst the D.C. sports media on just how long it took for Kimmel to act like a clown:

I think Zuckerman won that round.

Since you went to bed rather than stay up for a couple of three minutes and change of Harper on Kimmel’s show, here’s the video in one player:

Apparently, the rest of Kimmel’s show was awful. Like “Harper’s hair” awful.

75 days until Opening Day

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Nats TV rights: MLB trying to fix the Angelos problem

MLB seeks creative solution to MASN rights fees dispute between Nationals, OriolesThe Post
After a long period of no news on the Washington Nationals television rights compensation some new information has come out:

Hoping to find a solution to the dispute between the Washington Nationals and Baltimore Orioles over the value of the Nationals’ television rights, Major League Baseball has asked a private investment bank to seek potential new owners for the rights that are now held by the regional sports network controlled by Orioles owner Peter Angelos.

Allen & Co., a New York-based investment bank, is seeking buyers to acquire the two franchises’ broadcast rights from the Mid-Atlantic Sports Network, according to two people with direct knowledge of the matter who spoke on condition of anonymity.

A new owner would essentially separate MASN and Angelos from the Nationals by creating a new regional sports network.

Fox Sports and Comcast are candidates to purchase the rights, according to one of the individuals. Both companies, Fox Sports in particular, have delved heavily into the regional sports network market.

Frankly, I’m kind of surprised MLB is being this aggressive. On one front, Bud Selig is never aggressive about anything, though coddling Angelos and the Orioles is a core competency. Cowardly Selig won’t use the “best interest of baseball” power to do right by Washingtonians, Nats fans, the District of Columbia (which made an enormous investment in a new ballpark) or baseball overall. Instead, Selig uses his power to coddle cowardly Angelos, who doesn’t believe that Baltimore will sufficiently support his baseball team. So, Selig gave Angelos 90% of the Nats television rights to Angelos. The Nats franchise picks up a 1% stake in MASN annually, but the deal as currently constructed limits them to owning no more than 66% about 25 years from now. Angelos still has to pay the Nats a rights fee annually (the same amount goes to the Orioles), but he’s trying to lowball it. While some huge market teams are getting close to $100 million annually, Angelos wants to limit both teams to around $35 million. Even Orioles fans see through this as nothing but Angelos trying to enrich himself (WNST) instead of building a successful franchise.

What I am kind of surprised by here, other than the delay in getting something figured out, is that MLB is trying to solve the problem now. That’s not Selig’s style first of all, but secondly Angelos is in his 80s. Ted Lerner, the principle owner of the Nats, is even older. I thought a figure for the next five seasons would be determined , everyone would grumble and the decision would be deferred five years from now when the players are likely going to be different. I wasn’t even opposed to that strategy necessarily, because I think it would favor the Nats since a new commissioner probably wouldn’t have pay so much deference to the Orioles ownership.

Overall, I’m glad to see more discussion about the situation of late. I was kind of out here on an island pointing out the bad faith out of Baltimore — fans used to be resigned to it and the D.C. media wasn’t doing anything about it. The latter may be due to the Orioles fanboys that seem still linger, but thankfully, this problem is finally getting some traction. I think it’ll be ugly and I hope that the longer it goes the better it works out for the Nats.

More:

THOMAS BOSWELL: Dodgers’ spending spree means it’s time to get MASN deal doneThe Post

Then again, Angelos may be going even harder:

So Peter Angelos is digging in his heels over Nationals TV rights… – Nats Enquirer

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NHL Lockout: A monumental mistake for Ted Leonsis?

Reports suggest that Ted Leonsis is a hardliner in the NHL Lockout (Japers Rink) which doesn’t have a double-bottom line that Leonsis used to talk about so often. The timing isn’t very good for his Washington Capitals after years of strong ticket sales and strong television ratings last season. Leonsis has all but said that he will create a new regional sports network for his teams, but if one of them isn’t playing or has lost much of its fanbase, that hurts his RSN ambitions. I don’t know when his current arrangement with Comcast SportsNet ends, but I can’t imagine it is as many as 5 years from now.

As Washingtonians have learned through the villainy of Peter Angelos, RSNs are were the money is in sports now and in the future. Do you think cable operators are in any hurry to bring up their rates to make room for just Washington Wizards games? He needs at least one of his teams to be healthy and the Capitals have the best chance of that for the next several years. Are the pennies on the dollar that the NHL owners are fighting to save (after years of growth and having cut player salaries by 24% years ago) worth the potential of killing the sport/brand?

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