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.
Brandon Contes is a former reporter for BSM, now working for Awful Announcing. You can find him on Twitter @BrandonContes or reach him by email at Brandon.Contes@gmail.com.
Pac-12 Sources Express Concern With No TV Deal
“If we know anything about college sports, it’s that you can’t assume the status quo will last.”
Pac-12 Commissioner George Kliavkoff has been unwavering in his timeline for finalizing the conference’s television rights deals. However, many inside the conference are growing impatient.
A report from Jon Wilner of The Mercury News details conference sources growing in worry about the unresolved rights deals.
“The Pac-12 cannot get overconfident,” one source told Wilner. “If we know anything about college sports, it’s that you can’t assume the status quo will last.”
Kliavkoff’s lack of urgency is explained by his belief that Arizona, Arizona State, Colorado, and Utah won’t receive enough revenue from the Big 12 to explore a move to that conference, while the Big Ten reportedly remains reluctant to poach Oregon, Washington, Cal, and Stanford. The recent departure of Big Ten Commissioner Kevin Warren only cements that position.
The Pac-12 is the only Power 5 conference with remaining football inventory until 2031, giving it a position of strength. Wilner posits if Turner, Amazon, or Apple want Power 5 television rights, “there’s only one place to turn”.
However, sources inside the conference are worried about overplaying its hand.
“If you slow-play it,” the source told Wilner, “you become vulnerable to the unknowns.”
The conference reportedly sent “robust” proposals to ESPN and Amazon Prime Video to secure the conference’s television rights, but nothing has been finalized.
In the past, Kliavkoff has believed the conference’s women’s basketball schedule is an important factor in the television rights negotiations.
“I think women’s basketball is our fastest-growing television sport,” Kliavkoff said in November. “Ratings are increasing faster than any other sport. And I think it’s one of the sports that has been undervalued traditionally, in media rights. I think that provides a great opportunity.”
LIV Golf To Debut on The CW Next Month
“Saturday and Sunday competitions will be available both on The CW and The CW app. Friday events will only be available to stream through the app.”
The deal is done. All 14 events in the 2023 LIV Golf season will air on The CW. The tour and the network have agreed to a multi-year deal which finally puts the upstart LIV Golf on television in the United States.
LIV Golf makes its CW debut next month. The network will carry LIV’s competition at the Mayakoba Resort’s El Camaleón course in Mexico from February 24th-26th.
“This is a momentous day for LIV Golf as this partnership is about more than just media rights. The CW’s nationwide reach as America’s fifth broadcast network will provide accessibility for our fans and maximum exposure for our athletes and partners,” CEO & Commissioner of LIV Golf Greg Norman said in a press release. “The CW recognizes the enormous interest in and potential of our league and with their support, more fans will experience the energy and innovative competition that LIV Golf is using to reinvigorate the sport.”
The arrangement is unique. Saturday and Sunday competitions will be available both on The CW and The CW app. Friday events will only be available to stream through the app.
Finding a television partner has yielded some very public struggles for LIV Golf. The tour went without a media partner in the United States for its first season. All events were available for free exclusively online. Norman told ESPN Chicago that all four major networks spoke with LIV Golf, but those talks did not result in a deal. Apple and Amazon also reportedly passed with Apple saying the league and its backing from Saudi Arabia were “too toxic”.
Dennis Miller, president of The CW, sees the tour as a smaller piece in a larger strategy to remake the network.
“For The CW, our partnership with LIV Golf marks a significant milestone in our goal to re-engineer the network with quality, diversified programming for our viewers, advertisers, and CW affiliates. This also marks the first time in The CW’s 17-year history that the network is the exclusive broadcast home for live mainstream sports,” he said.
LIV Golf is not the only sport that The CW has been connected to in recent months. The network has also explored launching a college football bowl game in Cincinnati.
Pardon The Interruption Sees Highest-Rated Show in Five Years
It is the largest audience for the show since January 9th, 2018.
ESPN’s Pardon The Interruption has reason to celebrate. The show’s highest-rated broadcast in five years aired earlier this week.
On Monday, January 16th, 1.1 million viewers tuned into Pardon The Interruption. It is the largest audience for the show since January 9th, 2018.
The program was helped by being a lead-in to the network’s coverage of the NFC Super Wild Card game that featured the Dallas Cowboys facing Tom Brady and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. That game broadcast saw the most-watched NFL game from a Disney-owned network since Super Bowl XL in 2006. 30.6 million viewers tuned into the Cowboys victory.
The show — hosted by Michael Wilbon and Tony Kornheiser — airs at 5:30 PM ET and has been a staple program in ESPN’s afternoon lineup since launching in 2001.