For years, the Baltimore Orioles and Washington Nationals have been at odds, feuding over how much MASN—their shared broadcast partner—should owe in rights fees. As a concession to Baltimore for accommodating a new team in its local market (the Nationals relocated from Montreal in 2005), the Orioles received a majority ownership stake in MASN, effectively granting them control over Washington’s rights fees.
MASN offered $200 million for the Nationals’ TV rights from 2012-16 ($40 million annually), a sum they flatly rejected, countering at $475 million. The sides lawyered up, presenting their case before MLB’s Revenue Sharing Definitions Committee, which determined Washington should receive an additional $100 million. The Orioles fought to have that ruling vacated, arguing the decision be overturned on grounds that MLB and the Nationals had used the same law firm, representing an obvious conflict of interest.
Years later, the New York State Court of Appeals would ultimately rule in Washington’s favor, confirming MLB’s initial judgment that MASN and the Orioles owed the Nationals $100 million. An agreement between the two sides has been reached, with the Nationals and Orioles finally settling their discrepancy Tuesday, according to beat reporters Chelsea Janes and Ben Strauss of the Washington Post.
However, the war waged between the two beltway rivals is far from over, with the Orioles and Nationals likely to butt heads over payments for the next five-year period spanning 2017-21. At present, the Nationals own a 23-percent stake in MASN, a percentage that will continue to rise until their ownership share is capped at 33 percent in 2032. Realistically, the Nationals and Orioles are unlikely to ever see eye to eye, which, as the industry has taught us, is an occupational hazard of sharing a television territory with another team.