By ADAM KILGORE and JAMES WAGNER | August 8, 2014 | The Washington Post

Having set the terms of their television rights dispute with the Washington Nationals as a battle for the viability of the Mid-Atlantic Sports Network, the Baltimore Orioles claimed a preliminary, significant legal victory in New York Supreme Court on Thursday afternoon.

A judge found Major League Baseball temporarily cannot take further action against MASN and the Orioles in regard to the ruling MLB’s arbitration panel made in favor of the Nationals on June 30, which the Orioles and MASN described in court filings as corrupt.

The judge enjoined both the Nationals and MLB, the first step in challenging the MLB arbitration panel’s ruling. It is believed to be the first time MLB has been enjoined.

“The court made no determination regarding the merits of MASN’s and the Orioles’ claims but merely instructed the parties to maintain the status quo until a further hearing can be conducted later in the month,” an MLB spokesman said. “We remain committed to working with both clubs to reach an amicable resolution.”

The MLB spokesman said only the Nationals — and not MLB — had been enjoined. But both the Nationals and MLB were listed as respondents on the order the judge signed.

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Nationals sought tripling of TV rights
fees from MASN

By JEFF BARKER | August 9, 2014 | The Baltimore Sun

The Washington Nationals sought television rights fees nearly three times what the team receives now from the Baltimore Orioles-controlled Mid-Atlantic Sports Network, according to documents unsealed by a New York court last week.

The documents were made available by the New York Supreme Court Commercial Division for New York County, which is hearing a dispute over the division of the rights fees the two teams receive from their shared TV network.

Both clubs now receive about $40 million a year in return for granting MASN permission to televise their games, but the Nationals were seeking an increase to $118 million, citing recent deals for other teams, according to the documents.

“Whether MASN claims it can afford it or not is irrelevant,” said a recent document filed on behalf of the Nationals. “That fair market value is neither negated nor constrained by MASN’s economics.”

Since the Nationals and MASN — which is majority-owned by the Orioles — disagree over the appropriate size of the rights fee increase, Major League Baseball referred the matter to a panel of three baseball owners.

The panel’s June 30 decision has not been made public, but several documents — including a court exhibit — say the award fell substantially short of $118 million. The court declined baseball’s request to seal the entire record, although portions of some documents are redacted.

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Orioles-Nationals MASN Dispute: The case that Major League Baseball has cheated the Orioles

By MARK BROWN | August 8, 2014 | Camden Chat

When MLB and the Orioles hammered out the settlement that would allow the then-Expos, owned by MLB, to move into what was previously the sole territory of the Orioles, the Orioles were explicitly given certain sweet financial perks in order to compensate for the lost revenue anticipated. One of those perks was the ability to take in the lion’s share of the region’s television revenues. Both parties agreed to this.

Yet MLB never planned for this deal to last for long. They communicated to prospective buyers of the Nationals franchise that the television revenue would be redistributed in spite of the prior agreement with the Orioles. Major League Baseball has been planning for years to go back on this sweetheart deal now that it’s no longer convenient for them.

At least, that’s what MASN has to say about it, charging in a petition to a New York Supreme Court that baseball engaged in a scheme that “knowingly and intentionally deprives MASN and the Orioles of their promised compensation, assets, and rights.” This petition was filed despite the threats of baseball commissioner Bud Selig to levy the “strongest sanctions available” should a franchise take this dispute to court.

The intent of the petition is for the court to vacate a recent arbitration decision that decreed that MASN should pay between $60-90 million in additional rights fees to the Nationals per year. In essence, Selig is playing the part of Darth Vader in saying to the Orioles, “I am altering the deal. Pray I don’t alter it any further.”

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Orioles Get Temporary Restraining Order Against MLB, Nats, Selig In MASN Dispute

By ERIC FISCHER | August 8, 2014 | Sports News Daily

MASN on Thursday successfully petitioned to the New York State Supreme Court to obtain a temporary restraining order against MLB, the Nationals and Commissioner Bud Selig to prevent a recent arbitration award for the Nationals in their ongoing TV dispute from taking effect. A hearing on M…

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N.Y. court blocks MLB decision in Orioles-Nationals TV rights fee case

By JEFF BARKER | August 7, 2014 | The Baltimore Sun

The Baltimore Orioles took an early lead in the court battle against the Washington Nationals and Major League Baseball over television rights fees from the teams’ shared regional sports network.

A New York court temporarily blocked a recent Major League Baseball decision that would have diverted tens of millions of dollars in profits from the regional network MASN that flow primarily to the Orioles. The Orioles say that money is critical to maintaining competitiveness and affording quality players.

A judge in the New York Supreme Court Commercial Division for New York County issued a temporary restraining order Thursday in response to a Mid-Atlantic Sports Network petition to block the league decision. A hearing on a permanent injunction is scheduled this month.

Judge Lawrence Marks’ order also prohibited the Nationals or the league from “taking any action to terminate MASN’s license.” MASN, which is controlled by the Orioles, argued that it faced irreparable harm because of a threat that the Nationals could prevent it from continuing to show Washington’s games.

The judge rejected the league’s request to seal the record, meaning that documents filed by the Nationals and MASN will be open to the public. In documents filed with the court, MASN accused the league of botching the process used to determine television rights fees and of improperly influencing the arbitration procedure aimed at settling the clubs’ differences.

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Fuse lit: MASN goes to court to keep from having to pay the Nats more money for TV rights

By CRAIG CALCATERRA | August 7, 2014 | NBC Sports

Last week the Hollywood Reporter got inside the ongoing Washington Nationals-Baltimore Orioles-MASN dispute over the dividing up of rights fees. The big takeaway there was that everyone was preparing to go nuclear, abandon negotiations and run to the courthouse. And that Bud Selig was warning everyone involved NOT to take this to court because, well, baseball just doesn’t want that. He said in a letter to the clubs that he would level “the most severe sanctions” against them if they do.

Well, get ready to level, Bud, because MASN has gone to court in New York and obtained an injunction against a Major League Baseball arbitration which ruled in favor of the Nationals on the fee dispute. Basically: a court order to prevent the Orioles, the Nationals and MASN from having to comply with it. You can read all of the documents filed and the court order below. The upshot of the arguments, for those who do not wish to read: MASN is asking that the arbitration be set aside due to a conflict of interest. The argument includes the following claims:

  • The same lawyers represented the Nationals, Major League Baseball and the clubs of the three owners who comprised the arbitration panel;
  • “The three arbitrators, MLB and the Commissioner of Baseball, all had a direct and significant pecuniary interest in the outcome of the arbitration.”
  • The authority set up to determine the amount of money the Nats were supposed to get from MASN “exceeded its authority by intentionally refusing to use its established methodology to determine the fair market value of the telecast rights fees as mandated . . .”

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MLB’s Civil War: An $800 Million TV Dispute Heats Up

By ERIQ GARDNER | August 7, 2012 | The Hollywood Reporter

On July 29, The Hollywood Reporter broke news about bombshell litigation between the Baltimore Orioles, the Washington Nationals and Major League Baseball over TV money. New information has surfaced as part of a broadcaster’s emergency motion for injunctive relief to prevent the Nationals from terminating baseball game telecast rights.

To quickly review what happened prior to Thursday’s intervention by a New York judge, when the Montreal Expos became the Washington Nationals in 2005, Baltimore Orioles owner Peter Angelos was upset by the prospect of potentially losing market share to another team in his region. So a deal was worked out whereby the Orioles would hold a majority partnership profit interest in Mid-Atlantic Sports Network (MASN), which would get to telecast Nationals games at a substantial discount from 2005 to 2011. After that, MASN would be obligated to pay the Nationals “fair market value.”

The parties went to arbitration to determine that “fair market value.” According to documents that have recently surfaced, the Nationals demanded $118 million a year from 2012 to 2016. The Orioles-controlled broadcaster thought fees starting at $34 million and rising to $45.7 million were more appropriate. On June 30, an MLB committee privately adjudicating the dispute issued a decision favoring the Nationals.

The broadcaster refused to pay, though, leading the Nationals to send notice of default, and MLB commissioner Bud Selig to threaten to “impose the strongest sanctions available” if the parties went to court. Despite the warnings, the teams and their broadcasters filed papers in New York state court. The MLB was one of the named respondents. The court action came after the Orioles told MLB they would be seeking no less than $800 million in lost asset value, according to a letter obtained by THR.

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MASN, Nationals File Preservation Rights Petitions Regarding Recent Arbitration Ruling

By ERIC FISCHER | August 1, 2014 | Sports Business Daily

Both MASN and the Nationals have filed preservation rights petitions with a N.Y. court designed to either vacate or confirm a recent, private MLB arbitration ruling favoring the Nationals in their ongoing media rights disputes, several industry sources said.

Those motions had to be made within 30 days of the June 30 decision, enabling either party to go to court later if so chooses, and both sides are awaiting a judge’s ruling for how long it is allowed to continue negotiating privately before a formal suit must be brought forward.

Those negotiations in the multiyear dispute have now reached a more heightened state, sources said, as MLB is particularly loathe to avoid a public suit. But the Orioles dispute the ruling for the Nationals on two primary fronts.

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Washington Nationals, Baltimore Orioles split over MASN cable TV rights fee

By JAMES WAGNER | August 14, 2012 | The Washington Post

Since baseball returned to Washington in 2005, the Nationals and Baltimore Orioles have tried to develop a rivalry on the field, even as — until this season — both languished at the bottom of the standings. But off the field, a more important and far more bitter dispute rages over the Nationals’ television rights and how much they are now worth.

The Orioles control those rights, an arrangement unique in professional sports that essentially gives a rival franchise 45 miles to the north a say in how much the Nationals have to spend on virtually every aspect of their organization.

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