MASN and a New TV Deal

Since 2005, the Baltimore Orioles have had to share a general metropolitan area with the Washington Nationals, formerly the Montreal Expos. Baseball-wise, it doesn’t pose much of a problem. The Expos became the Nationals and joined the NL East Division, avoiding having two teams in the same city vie for the same pennant. It’s just like the New York Yankees and Mets, except for one thing:

The Yankees and Mets have their own individual TV deals.

Paul Brandley Washington Nationals Logo

In 2005, the Expos moved into the Baltimore-Washington DC metro area, which was until then the exclusive broadcast area of the Baltimore Orioles, as per the deal first reached in 1972. With the move, it became necessary for the Nationals to have access to TV broadcast, and a settlement was reached to make the Baltimore Orioles and Washington Nationals co-owners. Because of their previous establishment, the Baltimore Orioles assumed a majority interest in MASN and pay the Nationals a fixed amount (between $20-29 million per year). This agreement was put into place until 2011, when the Nationals were supposed to start receiving payment commensurate with fair market value.

The second problem then arises: the two teams disagree on what constitutes “fair market value”.

After they presented the case to the MLB’s Revenue Sharing Definitions committee last year, the panel decided that the Nationals were owed somewhere around $300 million for seasons between 2012-2016. However, the holding company for MASN disagreed with amount and wound up suing the Nationals and the MLB for “abuses and deficiencies” in the arbitration, including the fact that the law firm representing the Nationals also represents the MLB and all three teams represented by the arbitration panel.

With a court date scheduled for May 18 in the New York Supreme Court, both sides have a lot of money at stake. Fortunately, new MLB commissioner Rob Manfred has said “I think in reasonably short order, there will be a resolution of MASN, either by the litigation being done or some other mechanism.” So, at least things are looking up.

Rob Manfred

Rob Manfred is confident a deal will get done this year.

Hopefully the teams can get things worked out sometime this year or next, before either has a chance to enter a bid for the next All-Star Game (San Diego was awarded 2016). Both the Baltimore Orioles and the Washington Nationals are vying for an All-Star game, which has been absent from Washington DC since 1969. Baltimore hosted it when Camden Yards first opened in 1993, but would like to host it again while they are still enjoying their great success in the AL East.

A crushing loss to the Kansas City Royals might have dampened the mood for this offseason, but the O’s will certainly be back next year. We’ll see how the team reshapes this year, with new personnel and, hopefully, a new TV deal.