Print Columns   |   Web Chats   |   Blog Archives   |  

Why Nats TV Is A Dud

The other night at Nationals Park, the guy behind us was trying to explain the basics of baseball to his date. His main problem: He had only the foggiest notion of how the game works. So when he saw my son scoring the game in his Official Bob Carpenter Scorebook, the guy leaned forward and addressed my son as "Stats."

"Hey, Stats," he said, all cool and insider-y, "remind me, why does the catcher tag the batter if it's Strike Three?"

This went on all game long: "Hey, Stats, is this guy Dukes supposed to be any good?" "Hey, Stats, how many years have the Nats been here?"

My son, who is 12, was only too happy to share his expertise, but Question Man was hardly an anomoly at Nats Park. The fact--driven home hard by Sports Bogger Dan Steinberg's news item today about the Nationals having the worst TV audience in the major leagues and the worst of any Washington sports team--is that after 33 years without baseball, the sport is a mystery or meaningless to a huge number of people in this region.

Why are Nats ratings so low? Several reasons:

1) The team stinks. With the worst record in the National League, the Nationals are a minor league quality team going up each night against major league teams--the result isn't pretty. Rebuilding is a grand strategy and it's the right one, but this team has nothing to build upon, and with hundreds of thousands of people checking out the new stadium (and generally loving it), there ought to be at least one or two strong players on the field for fans to latch onto and cheer for. We had that in Alfonso Soriano and the Nats chose to let him go. They need not waste a big chunk of the budget on a superstar, but a couple of at least good players would help involve people in following the team on a daily basis.

2) MASN stinks. The sports channel got the rights to Nats games as a special gift from Major League Baseball so that O's owner Peter Angelos wouldn't sue the sport for adding the ex-Montreal Expos to what he considers his territory. MASN has treated the Nats as the ugly stepchild from the get go. To this day, the O's casts get the fancy graphics; the Nats' don't. The O's casts get the cool pitch-tracking technology; the Nats' don't. The O's have normal camera angles; the Nats' casts have a bizarre overhead shot of home plate that's from a camera position so high at Nats Park that it might as well be from a blimp.

3) MASN is hard to find. Good luck finding it on your cable system if you're not a diehard fan. Plus, the games alternate with those of the Orioles, so you never know on any given night what channel the broadcast might be on.

4) The rest of the media in town has failed to embrace baseball's return. Driving up the East Coast recently, my kids were stunned by the volume and passion of baseball chatter on sports talk stations in Philly, New York, Boston and many points in between. In Washington, Sports Talk 980 (WTEM) and Redskins Radio both treat baseball as a third-tier afterthought. The Nats do have a fan base: drawing nearly 30,000 fans a night isn't chopped liver, and the team, while hardly close to breaking any records, is well into the middle of the pack in attendance at the stadium. But you'd never know that from how the team is covered and chatted about on radio and TV. The Nats have a very strong blogosphere, and the Nats coverage in the Post has a good and very loyal following. But aside from the talk show that 3WT added as part of its postgame coverage on the radio, there's precious little opportunity for fans and newbies to get into the personalities and daily soap opera that makes baseball a different kind of story from other sports.

5) MASN and the Nats have failed to do enough to educate those who don't know the sport. Yes, the Nats send players out to inner city schools and yes, they embrace and celebrate local Little Leaguers. But the team and MASN need to do more of the Baseball 101 kinds of PR and education that they took a little stab at back during the first season. They need to go beyond ordinary coverage and sell the game and teach the game.

Some bloggers are giddily taking bets on how long baseball lasts in Washington. And given our history, that's not a wild or crazy topic to discuss. But this is a huge and affluent and educated market--perfect for baseball by any standards. It's all about getting the product right. Obviously, it hurts that the rival team controls the TV broadcasts--that will plague the Nats for many years to come. And yet this is a market that learns and embraces new sports teams--look at the Mystics, the WNBA team that led its league in attendance for the first five years of the league's existence. Or look at United, which has been the model franchise in the soccer league. This is hardly a natural hockey town, yet look at how smart marketing and an investment in quality on the ice turned the Caps into something of a phenomenon under Ted Leonsis's ownership.

The Lerners seem to be taking the long view on building the Nats; there's growing pressure on them to pay more attention to the short term as well. Perception matters in an enterprise this public, and a fan base that needs nurturing and teaching also craves someone to root for.


More food for thought: Here's the breakdown of TV ratings by team, showing a strong correlation between size of audience and how well the team is doing this season....

This is from Sports Business Journal:

Network Ratings
(no. of 2008 telecasts) 2008 rating*
(% change) 2008 viewers (% change)
Fox (13) 2.1 (-16.0%) 3.0 million (-16.7%)
ESPN (33) 1.4 (-12.5%) 1.73 million (-8.5%)
TBS** (12) 0.5 (-28.6%) 664,000 (-30.0%)
* Coverage area rating for ESPN and TBS
** Compared with Braves telecasts last season
Sources: Fox, ESPN, TBS
RSN Ratings (ranked by percentage gain)
RSN Team 2008 avg. rating
(% change) Households avg.
(% change)
CSN Chicago Cubs 4.87 (51.2%) 169,000 (52.3%)
FSN Florida Rays 2.77 (31.3%) 49,000 (32.4%)
FSN South Braves 3.31 (23.0%) 76,000 (28.8%)
FSN Rocky Mountain Rockies 3.56 (16.0%) 53,000
FSN Ohio Reds 5.78 (14.9%) 52,000 (15.6%)
CSN Chicago White Sox 1.82 (13.8%) 63,000 (14.5%)
SunSports Marlins 3.49 (11.9%) 54,000 (12.5%)
FSN Midwest Cardinals 8.04 (5.9%) 100,000 (7.5%)
CSN Bay Area A?s 2.09 (5.6%) 51,000 (8.5%)
FSN Florida Marlins 3.41 (5.2%) 52,000 (4.0%)
FSN Southwest Rangers 1.49 (4.2%) 36,000 (5.9%)
CSN Philadelphia Phillies 5.02 (3.9%) 148,000
MASN/MASN2 Orioles 3.05 (1.7%) 33,000 (0.0%)
YES Yankees 4.40 (0.0%) 325,000 (0.3%)
FSN Wisconsin Brewers 6.73 (-0.9%) 60,000 (0.0%)
FSN North Twins 6.92 (-6.9%) 118,000 (-5.6%)
CSN Bay Area Giants 2.51 (-7.4%) 61,000 (-6.2%)
SportSouth Braves 3.24 (-8.2%) 75,000 (-3.8%)
FSN Detroit Tigers 6.16 (-9.5%) 119,000 (-9.8%)
SportsNet New York Mets 2.76 (-10.4%) 204,000
SportsTime Ohio Indians 4.45 (-12.4%) 68,000
FSN Arizona Diamondbacks 3.92 (-16.9%) 71,000
FSN West Angels 1.24 (-17.9%) 70,000 (-17.6%)
NESN Red Sox 9.75 (-19.4%) 233,000 (-18.8%)
FSN Pittsburgh Pirates 2.96 (-21.9%) 34,000
FSN Prime Ticket Dodgers 1.57 (-22.7%) 89,000
FSN Southwest Astros 3.36 (-25.7%) 69,000
Cox/SD4 Padres 5.08 (-30.6%) 53,000 (-29.3%)
MASN/MASN2 Nationals 0.39 (-43.5%) 9,000 (-43.8%)
FSN Northwest Mariners 4.67 (-47.2%) 83,000
FSN Kansas City* Royals 3.01 (NA) 28,000 (NA)
* Royals games aired locally on KC Metro Sports last year, making
comparisons not applicable.
Note: Comparable data for the Blue Jays was unavailable.
Source: SportsBusiness Journal analysis of Nielsen Media Research data.

By Marc Fisher |  July 8, 2008; 12:13 PM ET
Previous: Will D.C. Kill The Bargain Buses? | Next: Nats TV: MASN's Defense


Please email us to report offensive comments.

I consider myself a longtime DC sports fan, diehard Skins, Caps, Bulle er Wizards, United, etc.

The two main problems are MASN and the team itself.

I attribute it more to MASN, but until it starts to win, the casual fan will not embrace the team.

I do believe in "the Plan" however.

Posted by: A Fan | July 8, 2008 12:29 PM

When will the MASN deal end? Does anyone know? Once the Nationals control their TV rights, then the coverage will improve and more money will become available to build the team for the future.

Posted by: Another Fan | July 8, 2008 12:40 PM

I don't have any problem finding the Nats games on TV and players like Young, Zimmerman , Milledge, and Kearns are a delight to watch (when they're not on the DL, of course). Those of us who are transplants from other areas were able to learn about baseball in our home towns. If you want fancy graphics, follow along on the MLB site.

Posted by: Maryland Nats fan | July 8, 2008 12:41 PM

I can't think about the Nats without thinking about how MLB raped the city and it's tax payers on the stadium deal.

I actively ignore this team and baseball in general.

Posted by: vienna | July 8, 2008 12:45 PM

I also wonder on the TV deal. As a fan do I not have rights to sew the Orials for or somthing to get them to release the teams TV rights? It seems anti-trustish to me. We are a city of lawers, someone sew someone already!

Posted by: 35332 | July 8, 2008 1:01 PM

I agree the team stinks, and that is what should be discussed. NOT the network covering them. While it left a bad taste in my mouth a few years ago when we got the Nats, MASN is actually a good network. I have viewed the games of BOTH the Orioles and Nats, and the coverage is the same. How they covered the Interleague battle was excellent, and their announcers are national quality (i.e. Thorne, Carpenter, Sutton, and Palmer). Wanna know who is playing where go to Let's stick to the issue at hand, and that is how to improve the team so the fans will come out.

Posted by: EJ | July 8, 2008 1:02 PM

Peter Angelo$ is the primary villain here. He acquired the Nats TV rights and promptly kept them off of TV for two years. Then the station he put them on was awful. Basically, Washingtonians have been punished because Angelo$ is a gutless coward who doesn't believe that Baltimore can support his team and is thus entitled to Washington's loyalty/money/etc.

Angelo$ is the worst owner in sports. The Steinbrenners' are far more ethical than him.

Posted by: WFY | July 8, 2008 1:06 PM

The problem is MASN, MASN, MASN. I live in Baltimore and seldom see ANY games in HD for either the O's or Nats. And the HD we do get, is some blurry garbage produced by second-hand 1960's soviet technology. At least Comcast has that snowy, but dedicated HD channel. Frankly, if you have an HD set and have to watch a sorry, pixelated picture that I am mostly treated to from MASN, i'd rather watch a team I despise like the Braves and at least be able to enjoy a clear picture.

Posted by: Jim Cee | July 8, 2008 1:09 PM

You hit the nail on the head Mark. You can't ignore the fact that the team stinks. Rebuilding projects are ugly and painful, particularly, as you stated, when you've got nothing to build from. This is especially true in a notoriously fair-weather sports town, and the Nats are not alone--the Wizards had to sell some play-off tickets at less than half the sticker price to sell out Game One against the Cavs. Baseball is not an easy sell, particularly when injuries ravaged the starting line ups and the network they're on could care less. Have you seen that set of Nats Xtra? A first grader could do a better, more professional job on the set design.

Posted by: Rob | July 8, 2008 1:17 PM

I watch the Nats whenever I can. The team is not competitive so that hurts, but MASN hurts more. How would the Ravens feel if the Redskins controlled there TV rights. If I were the Lerner's, I would have found a way to buy my way out of the TV deal with Angelo$!!!!

Posted by: DT | July 8, 2008 1:23 PM

I don't know about fair weather town. DC U and Skins fans are as hard as they come and root for the team even if its in the tank. And ticket sails is not the problem, 30,000 a game is fine. How much money is the team losing from the MASN deal? Is that money keep us from having a more competitave roster? Because there are really no DC personalities in the MASSN broadcast that anyone recognizes its not a draw. Can't we get JB from CBS?

Posted by: Alex35332 | July 8, 2008 1:31 PM

The team does'n win often. They lose many games in a row. Who wants to watch that? I think MASN is fine although more in HD would be nice. If this team had some offense and still lost I bet they'ed get much better ratings. They need some hitters on this team. HR hitters. They gotta make some noise. Squeaky wheel gets the grease.

Posted by: Rich | July 8, 2008 1:35 PM

Put a winning team on the field and the numbers will improve, at the park and in the TV ratings. Pure and simple.

Posted by: Anonymous | July 8, 2008 1:38 PM

Here's a thought: a lot of the attendance at Nats games is composed of fans of the opposing team. These people are not going to watch the Nats on TV. Discrepancy explained.

Posted by: kwamesnani | July 8, 2008 1:41 PM

@Alex35332 -- I'd say pre/post game host Johnny Holiday is well-known. Also, JB is/was a part owner of the team.

Posted by: WFY | July 8, 2008 1:43 PM

I know this isn't PC to say, but the location of the stadium, and the difficulties involved in getting there on Metro ("scheduled maintenance" on game days, over-crowded trains, dirty stations, etc.) don't help. Nor does the dismal area in which the stadium is located. Putting up with all this might be OK if you're in your 20s or 30s, but older fans (like me) need a little more pampering. And it's a pity, because a lifetime of watching baseball makes me patient enough to be loyal to a new team with a learning curve. And the stadium is very nice; it's the location that off-putting.

Posted by: WashingtonDame | July 8, 2008 1:45 PM

The MASN deal really hurts us and the first two years of spotty coverage by MASN didn't help either. If we could get TV coverage owned by our own team, it would REALLY help.

I think fans here in the area can also create more awareness while they're out at the bars by asking them to put the game on. The bars in the city never even remember that a game is on. Having the game on for people will help.

We need REAL HD coverage. The HD they provide is NOT HD.

Posted by: G-town | July 8, 2008 1:46 PM

How many people really want to spend three hours watching a team that stinks? This is a town where people have a lot of claims on their limited free time. When I moved here nearly thirty years ago, I was able to justify watching the 'Skins and the Orioles as a means of becoming a Washingtonian. Now, I am too busy to invest what is scarce resource into something that is not particularly compellng.

Posted by: Grillades | July 8, 2008 1:47 PM

Anyone recall the Washington Diplomats, the Dips. The first DC soccer team of the old NASL. the league failed but DC was a decent market. they had incredible community outreach. I do not know what the Nats are doing but my school kids have not come home with ticket offers, free tickets or anything promoting the Nats. I hear co-workers from VA talk about packages offered at metro/VRE stations, but not folks from DC or MD. The Nats are not marketing to the entire DC area.

I recall getting Diplomat tickets for having good grades/Attendance/whatever. I had no idea what soccer was really, but we went to about 4 games. The Bowie Baysox do a better job. I am not a baseball fan, but they get your kids involved with school trips, performance awards, and the like.

Posted by: robgreg | July 8, 2008 1:53 PM

Some of the solutions above are trying to solve an attendance problem, which is not the problem that is up for discussion. The problem is TV Ratings. Couple of thoughts:

*Terrible teams can be lovable losers, play hard, battle with personality, etc. This team has yet to achieve the coveted "Lovable Losers" title.

*Is it really that hard to find the game on TV? Are you expecting it to leap out of your set and change the channel for you? Blog posters can't look up what channel it's on? Interested fans could if they wanted to.

*Lack of HD is a real issue. Lack of graphics and pitch tech stuff sounds to me like a bonus, not a deterrent....

Posted by: JkR | July 8, 2008 2:02 PM

Ever since Comcast finally put MASN on their digital plan, I've watched more baseball games than I've ever watched in my entire 34 years! I LOVE MASN! I like Bob Carpenter and Don Sutton and find that they do a bang up job especially when you look at the product they have to describe. I also watch the O's on occasion and I can't say that I see this huge production gap that Fisher describes.
I do have a couple of problems with MASN though. MASN2 is hard to find and not too many casual viewers will find it (it's on 77 BookTV on Comcast in Alexandria). The pre and post game shows seem like their filmed in a basement somewhere. I don't know what it is, but the lighting just seems dark.
Even when it's not baseball season, I still watch a lot of MASN. I'm a huge WVU fan and MASN does a great job covering Big East games that don't make it on to the regular ESPN networks.
The hard truth of the matter is DC is a terrible sports town. Everyone here loves a winner and ignores a loser unless they are the 'skins. The Caps are a prime example. Too many 'bandwagon' fans here who are quick to jump on, and even faster to jump off...

Posted by: MASNLover | July 8, 2008 2:07 PM

i believe the MASN deal is for up to 30 years at something like 20/mil a year to the NATS. not exactly sure about the terms but it is a cash cow for the DC team.

eventually the NATS will want control of their own destiny but for now i'm sure it helps pay for the purchase of the team and lets them focus on building a foundation internally.

MASN is weak. team is terrible. but from the sound of it, the guy sitting behind you was worse.

Posted by: longterm | July 8, 2008 2:10 PM

I discovered baseball with the Nats and have fallen in love with watching it.

I lived in CA for the last 3 years at watched almost all Nats games on

Now, I returned to DC. my first weekend here I drove to 6 reasturants in the DC area to ask them for the game. NOT 1 Had it! Fridays, Bennigins, Rock Bottom, etc... None had it one. No one new what channel, and 2 of them said they don't get MASN (turns out, on Direct TV in the local area, when it's on MASN 2, no one can find it).
Finally went to Hard Times Cafe, that had the O's game on. They offered to turn on the Nats, but said "MASN2 is very fuzzy". It was.
Absurd! 1 channel, and market the games!

Posted by: TMK | July 8, 2008 2:13 PM

My understanding is that the MASN deal is forever, or until a Nats team owner is able to convince a judge to let him get out from under it. MLB accepted Angelos's ludicrous notion that he owned the TV rights for the entire Mid-Atlantic area. When it sold the Nats to Lerner, the TV rights were not part of the deal. They get a guaranteed dollar figure from the O's for broadcasting the games, and they get a share of MASN that increases slowly over time, but never reaches more than 33%. That isn't the same as owning and controlling the broadcast rights to your own games.

Because of the Orioles' arrogance and MLB's perfidy, we will be stuck with this situation in perpetuity. Which is why I can't watch the games myself--the MASN logo is a constant reminder of the boot that Angelos maintains on the backs of DC baseball fans. While he would make more money from the Nats' broadcasts if he treated them properly, he doesn't want to do anything that would help them grow their market, including better TV. It is for this reason (and not for anything he has done to screw up the O's) that he is our Evil Emperor.

Posted by: JJ | July 8, 2008 2:14 PM

MASN needs to not only cover the Nats but promote them as well. Sadly nothing like that will ever happen as long as that putrid lump owns the rights. Good God, how did MLB think that would work out? Sadly maybe something will happen as soon as PA departs this mortal coil.

Posted by: Stick | July 8, 2008 2:15 PM

Is MASN's camera angle any different than all the others? The press box is high up, and the angle is ridiculous. Not MASN's fault.

As for the fan--typical for any stadium today. Prices are too high for true "fans" and you end up with people who want "entertainment" more generally and don't necessarily know the game. Of course, that's fine--it's good that people who aren't hard core fans are going to the games as well, but that's not a Nats issue. That's a baseball wide issue.

Posted by: ah | July 8, 2008 2:18 PM

I'm not a big fan of MASN, but as far as I can tell the graphics and the use of the pitch-tracker are the same for both teams. And if the camera angles are weird at Nationals Park, that seems more like a design flaw, not really MASN's fault.

Posted by: Anonymous | July 8, 2008 2:23 PM

Did you ever wonder why D.C. lost two baseball teams this past century? Maybe it had at least something to do with an apathetic fan base. I, for one, like the thought of having a nearby baseball team to go watch occasionally, but otherwise couldn't care less about the subject.

Posted by: Frankhoward | July 8, 2008 2:26 PM

"...the Nats' casts have a bizarre overhead shot of home plate that's from a camera position so high at Nats Park that it might as well be from a blimp."

Why is it MASN's fault where the camera platforms were installed??

Posted by: mark | July 8, 2008 2:27 PM

I agree on all points except Point 3. On my Comcast system MASN is very easy to find.
The practice of broadcasting replays of games hours after they end strikes me as bizarre. By that time the outcome is old news. Baseball is just not fun to watch without the suspense generated by not knowing for sure the outcome. Does anybody actually watch those rebroadcasts?
I have been a New York Met fan, going back all the way to their first season. I still remember that 1962 season, when they won 40 and lost 120. At one point in that season, Frank Thomas (no relation to the Big Hurt) tied a record by hitting six home runs in a three-game span; the Mets lost all three.
It took the Mets several years, but they climbed out of the basement. The Nats can, too.

Posted by: Charlie Gies | July 8, 2008 2:31 PM

Hooray for Marc's 12-year old son "Stats"! I am gratified I am not the only person who has kept a scorecard at Bigbucks Ballpark.

Posted by: otberbur | July 8, 2008 2:40 PM

The answer is simple: people aren't watching because they're not sufficiently interested. DC may one day be a baseball town, but that day is years away.

Posted by: NatsFan | July 8, 2008 2:40 PM

The obvious reason why this team's TV ratings are so low is because one simple fact: the Nats suck!

I can speak from my own experience because I for one am sick of watching this team lose game after game and night after night, and I just gave up on them. Mind you I'm not a fair weather fan, but the way this team constantly loses is somewhat ridiculous. Given their horrendous record, how does their manager retain his job?

Posted by: Anonymous | July 8, 2008 2:47 PM

I'm pretty sure The MASN deal guarantees the team $21M/ year. That's far more than they'd receive on their own right now. It may not be as good a deal in the future.

I'm a season ticket holder. I don't mind the broadcast, I think they do a pretty good job.

Unfortunately, this is a truly awful team. The talk last year of an all-time bad team has happened this year. Nobody's going to be interested in that. Because of all the injuries, the only familiar thing on the field is the jerseys (and the loss).

This will improve with the team and time. The team's not going anywhere, the neighborhood will become beautiful (washingtondame) and the team will have the chance to be competitive on and off the field.

Posted by: Tim from Silver Spring | July 8, 2008 2:59 PM

"the Nats coverage in the Post has a good and very loyal following"

But the question should be ... Has the Post coverage of baseball been good?

Posted by: Brian | July 8, 2008 3:01 PM

Points 2 and 3 are absurd. The camera angle is bad at Nats games because of the stadium design, not because of any plot by Peter Angelos. And people can't find the channels? Give me a break. There are two channels - MASN and MASN2. Two. If people don't care enough to memorize those channel numbers, then maybe Angelos and everyone else was right about DC being a lousy baseball town.

Posted by: Tom | July 8, 2008 3:03 PM

Marc, you got 3 out 5. Not bad...not good either.

As others have already stated, it's not MASN's fault where the TV platforms were positioned in the new park. But this does need to be addressed by the Nats. And the Nats have to address the empty seats behind the plate...that's the TV shot everyone remembers.

Can't find the Nats on TV? That's the lamest excuse out there. I have DirecTV and they're either on 626 or 671...not on either? Then they're on WDCA 20. Stories about bars not being able to find MASN or MASN2 only reveal that these establishments are hiring idiots. Hey, put a sticker on the side of the TV to tell the bar keep where to find the MASNs...duh...

What is MASN's biggest downfall is the lack of HD. In 2008, I believe each team only gets about 40 HD games, about 25 percent of the schedule. Yo, Asbestos King: It's 2008, get at least 75 percent of your games in HD. As someone posted on another site, it's better to watch the Royals-Rangers in HD than the Nats and Phils in SD. I second that.

Oh, and Marc, "...the O's casts get the fancy graphics; the Nats' don't." Please. We're not watching the same game.

Bottom line: It's the four seasons of losing that are driving Washington fans to watch reruns of "Ugly Betty" rather than the Nats. The O's haven't had a winning record in 10 years, thus their viewing numbers are among the worst as well. See the relationship?

Posted by: Annandale Annie | July 8, 2008 3:20 PM

Put every game in HD.

It's disgraceful that MASN still hasn't upgraded from DS; It looks terrible. In this day and age, you need to have high definition for your broadcasts.

Every other major league team does it. I know this for a fact, when I watch other games on my MLB Extra Innings package. So why can't MASN do it?

Posted by: Blackaces | July 8, 2008 3:23 PM

I have to disagree with those that disagree about it being difficult to find MASN or MASN2.

I just went to the Post's TV Listings site, and looked through the entire listings from 7pm to 11pm. While I can see that the ID Channel is airing back-to-back episodes of 48 Hours and that a channel called Sundae is airing something called "Outrageous Wasters" at 10pm, nowhere could I find a listing for MASN or MASN2. Shouldn't the Post at least list what's on MASN and MASN2 on their online listings?

And it does help if all the sports channels are near one another on cable/satellite. This helps when people are flipping in and out of one game to come across another. On Cox in Fairfax, ESPN, ESPN2 and Comcast SportsNet are all next together on #55-57. Versus, FSC, Golf, ESPNews, ESPNU, NBATV, NHL and NFL networks are all together from #241-249. But MASN is on #102 (in between ABC Family and Bravo), while MASN2 is hidden away on #74 (between Discovery and TLC).

Yes, the die-hards will find the game no matter where it's located. But you're not going to get too many casual fans to come across a Nats game when they have to accidentally come across it on their cable system.

BTW ... can someone please indicate what the viewership numbers for the Nats/O's/rest of MLB were like last year? I'd like to see this to figure out how much decline their has been (if any) in the viewership.

Posted by: e | July 8, 2008 3:46 PM

The Nats have made no effort to market the team to casual fans. Most teams have a fanfest, and get the players out doing appearances for the general fan base.

The Nats had a couple of guys show up at the Health & Fitness Expo, and have 5 ESPN ZOne events (including one tomorrow where they didn't even figure out the attendee until yesterday).

The front office consistently overpromises and underdelivers from an operations perspective, and on the whole they're a disappointment, even before you consider the mess that is the team on the field.

Posted by: pennquaker | July 8, 2008 3:53 PM

MASN is a joke and, until something is done about it, the coverage will continue to suck. The team sucks now because MLB gutted the old Expos franchise when they owned it. They then sold the Lerner's a used, beige colored Yugo at Cadillac prices. The first few years of building this team started with the farm system. There are still miles to go.
As for the team's longevity, a 30 year lease was signed, so they really aren't going anywhere.
The key here is for the Lerners to stand up to MLB and sue for the rights to their own team. Congress can help by ending MLB's exemption from antitrust laws.
As to the Nats losing money on MASN, Angelo$ pays them (I believe it is 21 million this year), but he will always be 2/3 owner of MASN. If nothing more, one can hope that MASN goes under and then Washington can negotiate their own TV deal.

Posted by: TimDz | July 8, 2008 3:54 PM

As other, apparently more astute, observers have already noted, the Pitch Tracker on MASN is identical for the Nats and the O's. The graphics are the same.
The camera position is where it is because of the stadium design. That is one reason why MASN added a new remote "low home" camera on the netting behind home plate at Nationals Park.
As for finding MASN on your television, after a year and a half, there is a handy (and prominent) feature on MASN's website that will help you find MASN's channel positions across all 21 cable and satellite providers:
Since it has carried both teams, MASN has been diligent at treating both teams equitably, from hiring national-caliber talent to putting the same number of games on MASN, MASN2 and MASN HD.
If ever you would like to verify your facts before writing, MASN would be delighted to help.

Posted by: Todd Webster | July 8, 2008 4:00 PM

DC is pretty notoriously a "winner" town. The Caps drew no one until they started winning. Until the Nats start fielding a good, winning team no one outside of the die hards is going to care. Casual fans have too many other entertainment choices.

One other thing that may hurt them is the perception from watching on TV that there is no one there. It becomes a downward spiral that feeds on itself. All of those empty seats behind the plate on every pitch makes it look like no one is in the stadium. Frankly I am surprised if there are really 30K at every game. That's, what, 70% capacity? You'd never know it from what you do see on TV as you are flipping stations past the game.

Posted by: Glenn | July 8, 2008 4:08 PM

The team IS hard to watch. I am a die hard fan and will stay with them, but its hard for me to advocate the Nats to friends who are casual fans or not fans at all.

What really drives home the point about MASN is that the ads aren't even focused on the DC area. The idiotic Geico Caveman talks about dance moves in BALTIMORE during one spot.

Bring back the Ourisman Chevrolet ads!

Posted by: Sec314 | July 8, 2008 4:09 PM

I disagree with WashingtonDame. Metro has been a breeze to get too and from the games. And it let's you off a block from the stadium. You don't have to walk through any "neighborhood" whatsoever. You just walk a few steps from the metro entrance to the stadium with hundreds of other people.

Posted by: gonatsgo | July 8, 2008 4:12 PM

I know attendance is OK. That's not the issue...yet. But building a stadium in that part of D.C. was really questionable, and once the novelty of a new stadium wears off, attendance will probably rank about as high as the TV ratings currently do. All those affluent people...well, they aren't going to ride the trains into that area forever, unless that area has a quick turnaround and transforms itself into a Baltimore Inner Harbor-like place. And you can drive to the Inner Harbor. Nats stadium doesn't provide a single parking space unless you're a season ticket holder. The stadium should have been built in Northern Virginia, where the affluence and baseball knowledge resides. To get to Nats stadium from the 'burbs is a nightmare. And once there, well, it's certainly not the kind of area you want to stroll around in. Maybe that will change. But maybe it will be too late. The team stinks, the uniforms stink, the area stinks and the trains stink. Once a team/stadium gets a bad rep, it's very hard to turn that around. Wouldn't be surprised at all if this team is gone within 10 years.

Posted by: Anonymous | July 8, 2008 4:14 PM

I think all the comments here are underestimating the main reason for the poor ratings, the team stinks. I was at one game earlier this year where they were losing 1-0 in the 7th and the Nats had two men on for the first time all game (a single and a walk). As the next batter stepped up you could feel a bit of excitement in the air until they posted his stats and we saw he was batting .038 for the year -- and no, it wasn't the pitcher. .038! The Mets already did the loveable loser bit 50 years ago. I would make the effort to find MASN and do without the "track-a-pitch" graphics if the ultimate product wasn't such a joke.

Posted by: Paul | July 8, 2008 4:15 PM

I immagen that $20mill is significantly less than what they would get if they controled there own TV rights. Football teams get significantly more for 16 games, and I have to wonder what the League average for the MLB is? The O's should not get any rights simply because it gives one team a un-fair advantage over the other 29 teams, you don't think that the Yankies would love to get a few million from the Met's TV deals? Or lets say that the TB Devilrays felt that the Marlins cut into there revinues in all of Florida?

Posted by: Alex35332 | July 8, 2008 4:17 PM

Short term yes the area they are in is not the best, though I would rather live down in this hood than my old Arlington grounds. Long term, with the slow distruction of the suburbs and the death of the driving culture and the fact that they are rebuilding SW and Anacostia to be the next harbor/chinatown, it should work out. The construction wakes me up every morning, and should be done in a year or two.

Posted by: Alex35332 | July 8, 2008 4:24 PM

Marc, you've already received enough (justified) criticism about blaming the interest on MASN's graphics and camera angles and the challenge of finding the broadcasts, so I'll skip that. The two biggest reasons I see for the lack of interest is a dangerous combination: a bad team and mediocre (at best) fans. There is little real reason to watch this team right now with any hope for now or the immediate future. And this town is full of fair weather fans. Don't tell me about the Skins fans. Look at their games in December the last few years. Half the crowd is there for the other team! The Lerners and Stan Kasten hopefully have learned that they are going to have to work very hard to develop a fan base and the first step in doing that is adding some real talent to the team next year, not waiting for the farm system to come through. Then they have to market the team really aggressively in every way (in communities, on the air, on line) to make this work.

Posted by: baltova | July 8, 2008 4:41 PM

vienna, you should get your facts straight. dc taxpayers have not had to spend one dollar on the stadium...not one. in fact, the stadium is generating more tax revenues than origionally thought, thats before significant development around the ballpark.

and if you are ignoring baseball, why are you reading this column?

Posted by: nats fan | July 8, 2008 5:10 PM

Weak ratings aside, there's something to be said for the fact that more than 35K came to the new ballpark a few weeks back to watch the last place Nats take on the nuthin' happenin' Texas Rangers. Meanwhile, the Orioles--DC's new favorite team, if you believe the TV ratings and some of the comments on some of the other Post blogs--scored very weak attendance during the July Fourth holiday, when the Nats were out of town!

Fact is, the Nats stink now and, with their best players hurt, will stink for the rest of the year. Diehards (or masochists) like me will keep watching, but I can't begrudge the large number of folks who won't.

Posted by: Rob | July 8, 2008 5:15 PM

The dirty little secret about this area -- one that local media outlets like the Post try to downplay -- is that there is an ever-widening divide between Maryland and Virginia residents. Folks from the two states might work side by side from nine to five, but that's where the similarity ends. Very different cultures and attitudes.

The story of the Nats is a simple one: Marylanders haven't taken to the team. They are still hanging on to all their Orioles gear from the 1990s. The most salient fact in the entire Steinberg piece was this:

"SportsBusiness Journal reported last month that Orioles broadcasts on MASN and MASN2 are drawing higher ratings in the Washington market than are Nationals broadcasts."

What could that POSSIBLY be about other than MD folks who still look to the north for their baseball?

Posted by: George Mason | July 8, 2008 5:37 PM

from the nationals journal blog...

and the two-hour saturday am baseball show st980 does always seems to open with a call from some guy named jimmy who expresses his man-love for the angelO's in general and daniel cabrera specifically. way to build a fan base in washington.

Posted by: natsscribe | July 8, 2008 5:40 PM

Posted by: natsscribe | July 8, 2008 5:59 PM

Yes, the Nats are painfully hard to watch, but even more so on MASN. The whole production looks amateurish, the set design on Nats xtra reminds me of a local tv station in the 50's and the talent, well, lacks it. Bob Carpenter's regional accent is grating, Ray Knight is affable but hardly insightful and Johnny Holiday is a rent a hack. And yes, MASN should be at the same place on the same channel every night. Its basic. Watch a game on NESN some time for a look at what a professionally produced, major market broadcast should look like. What we're getting should embarass all concerned.

Posted by: broadcasting major | July 8, 2008 6:02 PM

WashingtonDame, don't be such a snob about the location. The only way the stadium deal was going to go through was in a transitioning neighborhood. Like the team the neighborhood is in a rebuilding mode. At least it will look nice within 5-10 years once all the development is complete and in exchange the city will have another dynamic waterfront neighborhood to draw from. No offense but fans in their 20s and 30s along with their young children are the demographic the Nats are looking for anyway. Right now everything about the Washington Nationals is about building a solid base for the future. It's not going to look pretty for a few more years on the field or off. However, their minor league farm system looks promising and once the development around the park is filled in and the MASN deal is finally up the Lerners can kick butt and get a decent deal in place. That will do the most to bring more Washingtonians to the yard or in front of the tube.

Posted by: Mike O | July 8, 2008 6:06 PM

Time for every one here to pull there heads out of there butts. You wonder about the MASN/Nationals/Orioles T.V deal take 5 seconds and look that up; it takes about 5 seconds on google:

The Nats get $20 million dollars a year from there MASN contract. Twenty million is a huge number right smack dab at the league average. If any one here thinks the Nats would get more on the open market is a fool. Secondly how can this be MASN fault? Stop complaining about lack of fancy graphics and HD crap. If you like the team watch them, sorry if it takes you a few extra clicks to find MASN 2. Seriously folks stop being ignorant!

Posted by: John Jr | July 8, 2008 6:19 PM

The problem is DC is a fake city with fake people and no actual culture to bind it together.

It should stop trying to be like every other city. The population may be large but that doesn't make it worthy.

Posted by: cbc | July 8, 2008 6:26 PM

I have ABSOLUETLY no problem finding either MASN or MASN2, and tune in to them watch ORIOLES games.
People can blame Angelos all they want, and I'll agree he botched the PR aspect of the deal, but if MLB had come to you and said "we're going to give the larger, richer half of your team's market to somebody else...have a nice day" would you have just rolled over, or would you have fought tooth and nail to salvage the best deal you could in an awful situation.
People don't watch the Nats because they're an awful team, loaded to the gills with thugz who can't stay off the DL. Don't look 30 miles up the B-W Parkway for the source of your problems, when they're self-evidently sitting on the Green Line in SE.

Posted by: Mark | July 8, 2008 6:35 PM

Has anyone considered that these TV ratings are completely inaccurate? 9,000 people watch Nats games in the DC area while 30,000 watch the Os in Baltimore? DC United has more tv viewers than the Nats? That simply can't be. I think when what is certainly a small market is being measured, the ratings aren't very accurate. No chance only 9,000 households are watching Nats games.

Posted by: Red Porch | July 8, 2008 6:45 PM

MASN and Angelos is the problem. Take tonight for example. YOu cannot find the game listed in the guide that Comcast offers here. The game is being played on MASN2 but the guide says US Senate is being shown.

I agree a winning team would help, but I've talked to a lot of folks who STILL don't know about MASN2 and that the games show up there even though the guide does not reflect it.

I am also a season ticket holder and I love my Nats. Peter Angelos is screwing the Lerners.

Posted by: Eric | July 8, 2008 6:55 PM

Another problem is the Comcast-MASN fued, as reflected in the last post. Comcast barely covers the Nats. A lot of sports fans watch Comcast for the Wiz and the Caps. You'll hear nothing about the Nats there. We'd be better off with Comcast broadcasting our games and advertsing them there and promting/covering them on their local shows (like their sports night/am shows).

Posted by: Steve | July 8, 2008 6:58 PM

Does anyone know where COmcast gets their guide information? I would suspect it comes from the channels themselves. So, in the case of tonight, where the Nats are on MASN2 and it is not listed... Who's fault is that?

also..TV Guide...

TV Listings -
Washington Nationals (MLB) (0 total TV Listings)
More Results
There are no airings scheduled in the next 14 days.

Even if I search all baseball games tonight on Comcast, there is NO Nats game. So maybe some of the blame lies with the poor communication to the tv guide services.

It's ridiculous that they can't get this right three years into this thing.

Posted by: Eric | July 8, 2008 7:00 PM

One last thought... let's sign Ken Griffey Jr!!!!

Posted by: Eric | July 8, 2008 7:09 PM

I've got a 20 game plan. I love the Nats.

I rarely get to watch them on TV though. We don't have cable (rather spend the money going places and doing things than paying for cable tv) So we listen to them on the radio, and watch them when they are on broadcast or when we are in bars.


Posted by: saf in Petworth | July 8, 2008 8:43 PM

"There are no real baseball fans in Washington. That's a falsehood." A brilliant Baltimoron said that years ago. And I put my money where my mouth was, into the pocket of my best friend and butt-buddy, Butt Selig.

I own you fools in DC. I will decide when you get good coverage - never! The Lerners won't challenge me because I have a billion dollars that I stole from the tobacco users. Just try to sue me. Butt will punish you if you do.


Posted by: FatassPeteA | July 8, 2008 8:53 PM

You all villify Angelos, We hate him too, but at least he lets you have a team that you dont suppport. Jack kent cooke kept baltimore from having a football team, (the reason jacksonville got and expansion team) for years for the same reason angelos didnt want the nats to get a team. money. You have a new team, and a new stadium, but whenever I see a nats game on tv there seems to be no one there. maybe Angelos was right.
At this rate who is gonna play in that new stadium when the nats move? just like the twins and rangers before them.

Posted by: mdbearsfan1 | July 8, 2008 9:40 PM

Listen, patience is the key. I think the broadcasts are fine. The team has been desimated of stars going all the way back to the days in Montreal. They are building the right way and the neighborhood around the park will do the same. The recent economic downturn will hinder the speed of the growth of the economic revival of the area around the ballpark. The Lerners are in it for the long haul and Stan Kasten is the right man for the job. The money is here,the market is here. In time good will come. Okay, the Nats extra set is cheesey.

Posted by: booray | July 8, 2008 9:55 PM

Thanks for your support, mdbearsfan1. We need to keep pushing these falsehoods on those DC people. I like the fact that the TV shows empty seats behind homeplate while the rest of the stadium is 80% full. Makes me look good, doncha think? You are partly right about me letting them have a team. My buddy Butt Selig helped me try to ruin any chance of the team surviving. Butt and I helped gut the franchise before we sold it.

By the way, between you and me, DC was without baseball for 33 years, and the reason they lost both teams was because the teams were so pathetic for so long, the fans gave up. They actually had more fans per win than any other team. And Cooke did not keep football out of Baltimore any more than I did. He had a solid product down there and did not need us.

Keep up the good work though. We may be able to convince the O's fans that I'm not the assbag that they know I am.


Posted by: FatassPeteA | July 8, 2008 10:01 PM

I agree with what one person said about the seats behind home plate being empty. I'll go one step further and say that it has a negative subliminal effect on viewers. It's nothing but a downer.

Posted by: Rich | July 8, 2008 10:24 PM


I have an idea. The first 100 people get free Peter Angelos masks and get to sit behind home plate--as long as they wear the masks.

Posted by: Rich | July 8, 2008 10:46 PM

"SportsBusiness Journal reported last month that Orioles broadcasts on MASN and MASN2 are drawing higher ratings in the Washington market than are Nationals broadcasts."

I wonder what the ratings discrepancy is like (or if there would even be any) if you take the Orioles' games vs. the Red Sox and Yankees out of the equation. Unfortunately, those teams (and the Cubs) are seemingly the only ones casual fans care about these days, particularly given the number of out-of-towners, transients and front-runners in this area. (All those obnoxious, know-it-all Red Sox poseurs you see at Nats Park are proof.)

Washington's baseball culture has been bruised for decades. The last real contender came in 1945, the core of the good Twins teams of the '60s developed here, then was taken from us after 1960 (Minnesota even clinched the '65 AL pennant at D.C. Stadium, adding insult to injury), and then came the charlatan Bob Short and a third of a century with empty summers. In the first half of 2005, it appeared karma was finally on our side, and then reality hit -- same old same old. The "plan" is good (although it would work better with a GM other than Bowden), but the Lerners need to do something dramatic to soothe the fatalistic psyches of D.C. area baseball fans.

Posted by: Vincent | July 9, 2008 1:15 AM

"SportsBusiness Journal reported last month that Orioles broadcasts on MASN and MASN2 are drawing higher ratings in the Washington market than are Nationals broadcasts."

I wonder what the ratings discrepancy is like (or if there would even be any) if you take the Orioles' games vs. the Red Sox and Yankees out of the equation. Unfortunately, those teams (and the Cubs) are seemingly the only ones casual fans care about these days, particularly given the number of out-of-towners, transients and front-runners in this area. (All those obnoxious, know-it-all Red Sox poseurs you see at Nats Park are proof.)

Washington's baseball culture has been bruised for decades. The last real contender came in 1945, the core of the good Twins teams of the '60s developed here, then was taken from us after 1960 (the Twins even clinched the '65 AL pennant at D.C. Stadium, adding insult to injury), and then came the charlatan Bob Short and a third of a century with empty summers. In the first half of 2005, it appeared karma was finally on our side, and then reality hit -- same old same old. The "plan" is good (although it would work more quickly with a GM other than Bowden), but the Lerners need to do something dramatic to soothe the fatalistic psyches of D.C. area baseball fans.

Posted by: Vincent | July 9, 2008 1:19 AM

Marketing of the team is the key to building ratings and attendance. There are not enough of the hard core baseball fans to support the team. You have got to get the casual fans or "walk up" crowd, as they used to call them, who decide on the spur of the moment to go to a game. With so much bad publicity about parking problems and Metro problems, I bet the walk up crowd is minimal.

Posted by: Wasserman | July 9, 2008 1:35 AM

DC United is a winner

Posted by: Chris | July 9, 2008 8:49 AM

I love baseball, but my problem is that the team is too new. Since DC didn't have a baseball team when we moved here sixteen years ago, my mother raised me as a Cubs fan, because she's originally from Chicago. So while I still love going to Nats games, I won't go out of my way to watch them on TV, especially with such a bad broadcast.

Posted by: Sarah | July 9, 2008 10:06 AM

Peter Angelos is the vallian? No way! He made a business decision that any smart business owner would have made.

MASN didn't keep baseball off TV. Do some research! It was Comcast. The same thing is happening in North Carolina (Time Warner) and Southern PA (Comcast, AGAIN!)

Find MASN at

It's going to take time for MASN and the Nationals to take hold in the market. Baseball was absent for 30-plus years. Patience is a virtue.

Posted by: Jason | July 9, 2008 11:26 AM

let's go "sew" some people. it's "sue" retard

Posted by: MAtt | July 9, 2008 3:19 PM

Redporch... ever heard of denial. Face it DC United have better ratings...its not a presidential election and there was no miscount.

Posted by: Joe | July 10, 2008 10:51 AM

How about listing the baseball games on the cable companies TV Guide, like almost every other show that is not public access?

I have RCN because they brought in the Nats earlier than the others. But if you look at their on-screen channel guide to find the game, unless the game is on channel 20, it is not listed. Many games are on the RCN channel 8, MASN2 but the channel guide will not list baseball, apparently a problem cause by the TV Guide system.

If I were the Nats, or MASN, that would drive me crazy. Is that the case with the other cable companies?

Posted by: scotto | July 10, 2008 11:12 AM

There is no common bond amongst residents in this area....many folks are from "somewhere else" and will never have allegiance to DC baseball. DC has never been a baseball town.....stadium was built to legitimize the real estate re-building in the stadium area.
Bet most of the big developers who pushed for the new stadium couldn't care less for the sport and don't attend or watch games.

Posted by: Harold | July 11, 2008 9:07 AM

"Is that the case with the other cable companies?"

Yes and no. Cox has the listings, Comcast NEVER lists Nats games. Comcast has a large market penetration in the DC area. I dno't know about the others..

Posted by: Eric | July 11, 2008 12:45 PM

Bars in DC are pathetic. Half the time, they won't have the Nats game on a signle TV. At best, a bar will have the Nats game on a tiny TV while 5 giant screens are devoted to Red Sox games. Buffalo Billiards even refused once to put the Nats game on a single one of their TVs because of a Sox game. Until this town gets over it's bandwagon following love of the Red Sox, the Nats will take a back seat.

Posted by: Eric | July 11, 2008 12:59 PM

It's "their."

"Time for every one here to pull there heads out of there butts."

Posted by: Speaking of ignorance | July 11, 2008 5:41 PM

The comments to this entry are closed.


© 2010 The Washington Post Company