Report: Orioles pitch settlement in MASN dispute with Nats

Brian Tinsman
July 10, 2018 - 9:12 pm
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Brad Mills-USA TODAY Sports

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On the field, the Washington Nationals and Baltimore Orioles are on very different trajectories this season but could be one step closer to meeting in the middle, off the field.

Buried in the July 4th news cycle was a Baltimore Sun report that the Baltimore Orioles have extended a settlement offer about the years-long TV revenue dispute at MASN.

The report details that the Orioles met with MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred before the current season and offered to accelerate the rate at which the Nats would gain ownership in the TV network.

The problem is that the Orioles have made similar offers before, and the Nationals and MLB have rejected those offers.

Not only is this legal dispute more than four years old, but it also comes at a time when there could be a changing of the guard on the horizon in Charm City.

Sources say the Orioles have grown weary of battling Major League Baseball over the network. The league can exert influence over the team in ways small and large, from regular-season scheduling and awarding All-Star games to approving the transfer of its ownership from Peter Angelos to one of his sons or an outright sale of the team.

Orioles owner Peter Angelos is 88 years old and dealing with health problems in recent years. Just as the torch has been passed with day-to-day operations in Washington, so too has it happened in Baltimore.

Under the current arrangement, signed in 2005 before the current Nats ownership group purchased the team, the Nats will gain gradual financial stakes in MASN, capping out at 33 percent in 2032. The lopsided deal stems from the Orioles giving up territorial rights that used to stretch from Pennsylvania to the Carolinas in exchange for a team just 40 miles to the south.

The Sun report goes on to highlight how some owners had misgivings in the immediate aftermath of approving the deal, but that Angelos and the Orioles had the upper hand in negotiations. The Expos needed to move out of Montreal and then Commissioner Bud Selig wanted to put a team back in Washington. Taking a tough deal from the Orioles seemed like a small price to get a deal done.

The aftermath has been a one-of-a-kind arrangement, where two teams share one network and alternate between bumping to the MASN 2 channel, depending on the series. Worse yet, the television revenue, which has been a franchise-changer for teams like the Yankees and Dodgers, has only provided a minor lift for the Nats.

Despite profiting from the broadcast rights to two franchises, MASN has claimed that increasing the share of revenue paid to the teams would leave it with unsustainably low-profit margins.

The next step in the matter appears to be a new hearing in front of a panel of neutral baseball owners. If the Orioles do not like the ruling issued there, they have the option of appealing it to the New York Supreme Court.

 

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