MASN, Orioles and Nationals to meet later in August on dispute

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Ed Cohen (left) is negotiating for the Nationals in their dispute with MASN over TV rights.

The sides in the dispute over the Nationals’ rights fees on Mid-Atlantic Sports Network have pushed a scheduling conference with the New York Supreme Court to Aug. 27. They were originally scheduled to meet today but decided to ask for more time. At that meeting, the sides are expected to discuss the next steps in the legal review and set meetings.

In other words, those hoping for a quick resolution to the legal battle between the Nationals and MASN, which is majority-controlled by the Orioles, will have to wait. The dispute has dragged on for years and is likely to take a while longer.

Earlier this week, New York Supreme County judge Lawrence Marks granted MASN and the Orioles preliminary injunction against Major League Baseball and the Washington Nationals, a significant early victory in the legal battle over the Nationals’ television rights fees. Marks raised concerns about conflicts of interest in an MLB panel that ruled the Nationals should receive higher television rights fees, which MASN and the Orioles have disagreed with.

The ruling prevents the Nationals from terminating MASN’s license to broadcast their games, a threat made to force the network to pay the money owed under a disputed ruling by an MLB panel. Marks’s ruling means MLB cannot force MASN to pay those higher rights. The status quo will stay in place until the court can review the entire process.

In order to keep things as they are, MASN was ordered to post a $20 million bond, the remaining amount owed to the Nationals this year under the MLB panel’s ruling, by Friday. If the panel’s ruling is ultimately vacated and the Orioles don’t have to pay the higher rights fees, the Nationals would repay the $20 million with interest.

Meanwhile, MASN, the Orioles and Nationals also are in the early stages of having their dispute heard by an American Arbitration Association panel.

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