This update to yesterday's post features a rebuttal comment from a MASN spokesperson.
A reader emailed us to ask why he can't watch the Washington Nationals phenom pitcher Stephen Strasburg actually pitch in games broadcast here on ESPN and TBS. Unfortunately, that reader is a Time Warner Cable customer, so he'll likely have to get in his car and drive to D.C. to see that happen.
Because of an ongoing contract dispute between the cable company and MASN, the Mid-Atlantic Sports Network that carries Washington Nationals and Baltimore Orioles baseball games, the games are not available here. (Note: MASN is available on DirecTV and Dish Network).
TWC spokesman Keith Poston explains that Time Warner wants to carry MASN on their digital tier, but MASN wants to be on the basic tier. TWC doesn't feel there's enough interest here for MASN to go on basic cable, where they have limited space. Neither side is willing to budge, so the FCC stepped in to help them decide. The FCC initially ruled against Time Warner Cable, but the cable company appealed the ruling, and there is no indication from the FCC when the next ruling might come.
The reason you can't even see games broadcast on ESPN and TBS is because MASN is the designated carrier for our area. Major League Baseball has identified us as a Washington Nationals market, and the local affiliate (MASN) has the right to broadcast those games over any national network, such as ESPN and TBS. So ESPN and TBS are forced to blackout all those games here, and since we also don't have MASN, there's no game at all.
Time Warner Cable and MASN could always reach an agreement on their own, but TWC is clear that it prefers to put MASN on a digital channel. "We think there's not enough demand to warrant putting it on basic cable," Poston said. "We have limited channel space, we have franchise requirements and other contracts in place with other networks and stations, so it would require us bumping other channels."
Update: MASN spokesman Todd Webster responded late Tuesday to Time Warner's comments on putting MASN on digital as opposed to basic cable: "Time Warner could flip a switch tomorrow and turn on Stephen Strasburg, nightly MLB, and ECU Pirates football. Instead, Time Warner wants to charge their customers higher digital tier fees for programming they used to offer for free."
More than 60% of Time Warner Cable customers already have digital cable.
Meanwhile, if you want to watch Strasburg pitch, find a friend or bar with DirecTV or Dish Network, or gas up the car.