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MASN Slashes Staff For Orioles, Nationals Coverage

“According to The Athletic, MASN recently informed both teams that the network would no longer provide pre and postgame coverage.”

Brandon Contes

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MASN

The Mid-Atlantic Sports Network is making significant programming and personnel changes to Baltimore Orioles and Washington Nationals broadcasts ahead of the 2021 MLB season, according to The Athletic

There’s a long list of Orioles announcers who won’t retain their roles with the club this season, including Gary Thorne and Jim Hunter. Thorne did not participate in the Orioles 2020 season which was shortened by COVID-19, but an unresolved contract dispute was a contributing factor. Last summer, it was reported Thorne and the Orioles were working toward a contract resolution for the 72-year-old play-by-play voice to return for the 2021 season, but that’s no longer the case. 

Hunter has been with the Orioles since 1997, where he’s worked as a play-by-play voice for both radio and TV, later contributing to the team’s pre and postgame coverage. Hunter announced on Twitter that he was parting with the Orioles. 

“I was informed this week by [the Orioles] my contract will not be renewed for 2021 ending my career w/the ball club,” Hunter tweeted last Friday. “It’s disappointing to have my tenure come to an end especially since it was not my decision. For 24 years I gave my heart & soul to the broadcasts & now it’s over.”

Other Orioles broadcasters who reportedly won’t be returning to MASN during the 2021 season include Mike Bordick, Dave Johnson, Tom Davis and Rick Dempsey.

According to The Athletic, MASN recently informed both teams that the network would no longer provide pre and postgame coverage. Instead, it’s up to each team to independently fund their pre and postgame shows if they would like the programming to continue. As The Athletic notes, costs for talent, truck rentals, production, and rights fees can easily equate to totals in the millions.

MASN is uniquely co-owned by both the Orioles and Nationals, but Baltimore is the majority stakeholder. Baltimore owns 77 percent of the network with the Nationals holding just 23 percent. The Orioles received a majority share of the network in 2005, reaching the agreement after losing the Washington TV market to the Nationals who relocated from Montreal. 

But it’s been a point of contention recently, with the Nationals arguing MASN’s current structure heavily favors the Orioles and both sides engaged in legal disputes over rights fees. In 2019, Major League Baseball’s arbitrator decided the Orioles owed $100 million to the Nationals based on fair market value from 2012-2016, but Baltimore has continued to appeal the ruling. 

Sports TV News

The NFL Still Considering Multiple Offers For Sunday Ticket

The NFL has had the respective bids of Disney, Apple and Amazon for weeks now. DirecTV has not bid for the package but has stated it is willing to partner with the new rightsholder for a potential deal.

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Sunday Ticket Negotiations

DirecTV currently has the rights to Sunday Ticket. That deal expires at the end of this upcoming football season. The NFL is expected to make a boatload of cash when they decide which media organization gets the next rights to the package. The only question is… who will that be?

Alex Sherman of CNBC reports that the NFL has had the respective bids of Disney, Apple and Amazon for weeks now. DirecTV has decided not bid for the package. However, they are interested in partnering with the new rightsholder for a potential deal. DirecTV knows that Sunday Ticket is a staple in bars and restaurants and is interested in maintaining those relationships.

Outside of the bar/restaurant industry, success has been limited for the satellite provider with the football package. Fewer than two million subscribers signed up for Sunday Ticket each year which made the package a money-loser for the satellite TV provider.

According to the report, the NFL wants more than $2 billion for the rights and a stake in NFL Media, which is being packaged with Sunday Ticket. Also on the table is the NFL’s mobile rights. The league’s previous mobile agreement with Verizon has ended.

An interesting piece of the negotiations is Sunday Ticket price. According to the report, a buyer would have limited flexibility on pricing. The NFL signed contracts with CBS and Fox and within the framework of those deals, language mandates Sunday Ticket have a premium price. That’s to prevent loss of viewers from the networks that feature local market Sunday afternoon games. So essentially, the price is the price for the consumer.

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Sports TV News

F1 Renews With ESPN For U.S. Media Rights

ESPN was reportedly in a three-way bidding battle with Amazon and Comcast. According to the report, F1 told both Amazon and Comcast on Friday that they had decline to accept either one’s offer.

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F1 ESPN

The racing series F1 has decided to stick with ESPN through 2025.

ESPN was reportedly in a three-way bidding battle with Amazon and Comcast. According to the report, F1 told both Amazon and Comcast on Friday that they had decline to accept either one’s offer.

The reported value of the three-year contract is set to pay F1 $75-90M per year for the U.S. media rights. Amazon had offered to pay roughly $100M per year, with the right to sublicense to a linear broadcast network. Comcast’s offer was similar to ESPN’s in terms of value and the structure. They also wanted to put select races on it’s streaming service, Peacock.

Netflix was in on the negotiations, as well. The makers of Drive to Survive, the streaming series that many credit with the sport’s explosion in popularity in recent years, wasn’t close on on their financial offer. Also, it seems F1 executives were not ready to put all of its races on a streaming service just yet.

Currently, F1 receives $5M per year for ESPN to broadcast it’s races. ESPN has grabbed about 1.0 million viewers per race. That makes F1 a more than viable option for the network to invest into again. ESPN will be able to put a small number of races on its ESPN+ streaming service exclusively. The vast majority being on ABC or ESPN.

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Skip Bayless Says He And Stephen A. Smith ‘Sorted Out’ Their Disagreement

“Brothers fight. We have fought before. I’m assuming we will fight again.”

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Skip Bayless

Stephen A. Smith and Skip Bayless were locked in a war of words last week following the First Take host’s appearance on JJ Redick’s Old Man and the Three podcast.

The origins of their partnership were discussed and Bayless admitted he did not like the way Smith characterized the state of First Take before he arrived on set. Smith insisted that Bayless simply misunderstood what he meant by saying that he was told the show needed him.

Over the weekend, Skip Bayless says he and Stephen A. Smith got together at the Bayless home in California to talk things out in private.

“He was in LA, he came over, we sat by the pool,” he said on the latest episode of The Skip Bayless Show. “It wasn’t the easiest conversation for a while, but we slowly but surely sorted it out. We got through it, and we have been through so much together.”

Bayless reiterated that he considers Smith a brother. They love each other. That doesn’t mean they are always going to remember events the same way or see eye-to-eye all the time.

“Brothers fight. We have fought before. I’m assuming we will fight again.”

Fighting doesn’t mean the relationship is fractured. In fact, Skip Bayless was adamant that he remains closer to Smith than he is to most people in his life.

“I don’t trust easily because of the way I was raised, but I do trust Stephen Anthony Smith. Trust him with my life. Always have and always will. I trust he will always be there for me, and you better believe I will always be there for him.”

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