The Washington Nationals are in their 13th season as a Major League franchise, and they’re still attempting to hash out the details of their TV revenue sharing agreement with the neighboring Baltimore Orioles.
The Nats have taken a lot of lumps over the course of this years-long process, but this week they caught a break. As reported in the Washington Post, a New York Appellate Court has ruled that the Nationals’ and Orioles’ respective shares of the Mid-Atlantic Sports Network revenue will be determined by Major League Baseball’s Revenue Sharing Definitions Committee.
The Nationals will now ask the RSDC for tens of millions of dollars in MASN rights fees.
This whole saga is almost too complicated to fully lay out, but we’ll do our best. When the Nationals first moved to D.C., they and the Orioles (who own 90 percent of MASN) agreed that the teams’ rights fees would be determined every five years by the RSDC. But in 2014, after the RSDC awarded the Nationals $298 million to cover the period from 2012-16, the Orioles argued that the ruling was invalid because the Nats’ law firm had worked with MLB and with organizations of those on the RSDC panel.
A New York judge invalidated the RSDC’s decision, sparking a lengthy legal dispute. Now, thanks to this week’s ruling, the RSDC—which is made up of MLB owners and executives and changes frequently—will decide the Nationals’ TV revenue once again.
The Nationals have repeatedly argued that their lack of TV revenue limits their ability to spend on free agents, and Rob Manfred has publicly taken their side.
The Nationals declared this week’s ruling “a major legal victory,” but this dispute is still not quite over, as the RSDC must now decide the Orioles’ and Nationals’ rights fees for the previous five years and for the next five years. Unless, that is, MASN appeals to the New York Court of Appeals, in which case this could all go on for who-knows-how-long.