Mid-Atlantic Sports Network, the long-maligned, bare-bones regional sports network serving fans of the Baltimore Orioles and the Washington Nationals, announced back in January that it would launch a streaming app for viewers inside its blackout area in time for baseball’s Opening Day. Hooray! Opening Day for the Orioles and Nationals was delayed, by rain and by COVID-19 respectively, but MASN was true to its word and pushed out its new streaming service Thursday afternoon, a little more than an hour before Baltimore’s since-postponed date with the Red Sox. Good job, guys.
So it’s not actually an app, not yet. And it’s not available to anyone who subscribes to, for example, Xfinity, which is the only non-satellite cable provider in the entire city of Baltimore. And it’s not available to anyone who uses OTT streaming services, which means it is at best a redundant option for those for whom it is available. Still! For users of Armstrong, Bay Country Communications, and Lumos Networks, this is an exciting chance to stream Nationals and Orioles games. Surely this group must represent the majority of fans!
The first thing you will have noticed is that the homes served by Bay Country Communications could all file noise complaints against the same neighbor if they turned their stereo up too loud. The second thing you will have noticed, hopefully, is that none of these cable companies cover Washington, D.C. or Baltimore, Maryland, or any of their inner or outer suburbs. Ah ha, you are thinking, especially if you work in an executive capacity for Mid-Atlantic Sports Network. But what about DIRECTV? What about their coverage area, asshole? I’ll tell you what about their coverage area! DIRECTV already has a fully functional streaming app, good on tablets and smart phones and distributed via the various app stores. For DIRECTV users, this bottom-rung RSN’s crappy new streaming service is a redundancy on top of a redundancy.
As a Nationals fan who lives inside the blackout zone but outside the coverage area of any cable companies, and who lives in the 21st century and therefore has converted to OTT streaming services for my television needs, this new streaming service is worse than useless. It’s a reminder that the advent of regional sports networks has turned watching the local MLB team into a frustrating and expensive pain in the ass, and continues to make it worse, with no end in sight. This piece-of-crap streaming service, even for the eight fishermen who use Bay Country Communications, is right now just an authenticated feed on the team’s website. MASN is available on just one OTT service, something called AT&T Now, which costs a ridiculous and prohibitive $84.99 per month. Zero Nationals games are aired on broadcast television in the team’s blackout area.
It’s worth repeating, yet again: During my lifetime there were whole decades when all it took to watch the local baseball team on your television was an antenna. You followed the local team because they were on television all the time. By the end of this season it will have been three years since I was able to watch the local baseball team on my television in my home. MASN, a network that exists solely for the purpose of making that possible, seems to spend every moment of every day working to make it impossible.
But, hey, super excited for several households in rural West Virginia and one crabbing boat on the Chesapeake Bay, who can now watch streams of Nationals games from the family laptop. Sounds like a blast.