The Baltimore Orioles and Washington Nationals are asking a judge to certify a decision that would see each team receive an average of more than $60.81 million in TV rights fees per year for 2017 through 2021, the latest chapter in a long-running legal saga involving the Mid-Atlantic Sports Network.
In court documents filed Dec. 8 in New York County Supreme Court, Patrick Curran, an attorney for the Nationals, and Jonathan Schiller, an attorney for the Orioles and MASN, wrote that the parties agree that the judge should confirm an arbitration award from the Revenue Sharing Definitions Committee of Major League Baseball.
The Revenue Sharing Definitions Committee met at the offices of Williams & Connolly LLP in Washington, D.C., from July 25-26 to hear a dispute between the teams after they could not reach an agreement.
The committee was composed of Mark Attanasio, chairman and principal owner of the Milwaukee Brewers; Dick Monfort, owner, chairman and CEO of the Colorado Rockies; and Tom Werner, chairman of the Boston Red Sox, and it determined on Nov. 8 that the fair market value of the TV rights for both teams in that period — adjusting for the COVID-19 pandemic — was more than $304.09 million.
The Nationals took legal action the same day asking a judge to confirm the award, alleging that the Orioles and MASN had demonstrated they would not voluntarily pay.
Here’s how that breaks down:
- 2017: $64.97 million
- 2018: $68.72 million
- 2019: $70.79 million
- 2020: $26.76 million
- 2021: $72.83 million
The Nats had asked for an average of $108.6 million per year, though that figure did not adjust for the pandemic. MASN, the team asserted, had paid it TV rights fees that were “far below” fair market value in that period.
Daniel Wallach, a gaming law and sports betting attorney in Hallandale Beach, Florida, and co-founding director of the University of New Hampshire Franklin Pierce School of Law’s Sports Wagering and Integrity Program, reported about the agreement on X, formerly known as Twitter. He’s also a legal analyst for The Athletic.
Following almost a decade of litigation that reached the New York Court of Appeals, the state’s highest court, the Orioles and Nationals this year reached an agreement about TV rights for 2012-16 in which MASN would pay each team about $99.2 million.
The arrangement over TV rights fees dates to when MLB bought the Montreal Expos for $120 million in 2002 and later announced that it was relocating the team to Washington. The owner of the Orioles, Peter Angelos, was the only one to vote against the plan.
MLB proposed a settlement to resolve several issues related to the move, which led to the creation of MASN.
Under the agreement, MASN would exclusively broadcast both O’s and Nats games — except, for instance, ones that were nationally televised — and pay each ballclub the same amount every year in TV rights fees.
The Orioles would serve as the managing partner of MASN and initially own a 90% stake in the regional sports network, and thus receive most of the profits. The Nationals would first own 10%, but their stake would go up one percentage point each year starting in 2010 until it reached 33% in 2032.
Starting after 2011, the agreement required the parties to negotiate TV rights in five-year increments. They agreed that the Revenue Sharing Definitions Committee would resolve disputes.
When the committee determined that the fair market value of the TV rights for 2012-16 was $298.1 million — or an average of $59.6 million per year — MASN went to court. It took years to reach a resolution.
It’s unclear what’s happening for TV rights for 2022-26. MASN and the Nationals declined to comment. The Orioles and MLB could not immediately be reached for comment.