Comcast SportsNet has no legal rights to televise Baltimore Orioles games beyond the end of the 2006 season, allowing Mid-Atlantic Sports Network to take control of the television rights to both the Orioles and Washington Nationals, according to court documents filed yesterday by MASN.
"This lawsuit is [Comcast SportsNet's] attempt to achieve through meritless litigation what it could not obtain through its failed negotiations," MASN said in a motion in Montgomery County Circuit Court.
The motion to dismiss was in response to a lawsuit filed by Comcast two months ago. Since Comcast filed its lawsuit against the Orioles and MASN in April, the cable company has refused to make room for MASN-produced Nationals games on its systems.
"Comcast ought to move on and put the Nationals games on," MASN attorney Arnold Weiner said. "Comcast is using this case about the Orioles rights as a pretext for not carrying the Nationals' games."
The Comcast lawsuit against MASN and Major League Baseball alleges that the cable company's subsidiary sports network, Comcast SportsNet, which holds the television rights to the Orioles through the end of 2006, has the right to match any offer.
The Orioles contend that MASN is their company and that the club's television rights revert to MASN after 2006. Comcast, which is the dominant cable provider in the Washington-Baltimore region, has asserted that MASN is a "third party" competitor and that Comcast SportsNet has in its contract with the Orioles the right to match any offer to broadcast the club's games.
"Through their motion to dismiss, the Orioles have tried to create a subterfuge to avoid discussing the clear violation of their contractual obligations to Comcast SportsNet," said D'Arcy Rudnay, Comcast vice president for corporate communications.
MASN eventually needs both Orioles and Nationals games in order to charge subscribers enough to make the investment worthwhile.