A Major League Baseball committee ruled that the Mid-Atlantic Sports Network must pay the Washington Nationals nearly $100 million to end a long-running dispute over broadcast rights fees, according to a report published Friday by the Baltimore Sun. The decision remains under seal.
MASN is owned by the Baltimore Orioles and Nationals but is controlled by the Orioles, who retain an 80 percent stake. The $100 million represents the difference between what MASN paid the Nationals for their TV rights and what MLB’s revenue-sharing committee determined was the correct market value between 2012 and 2016 — about $20 million per year, according to the Sun.
This is not the first time that MLB’s revenue-sharing committee has ruled that MASN owed the Nationals increased rights fees. In 2014, the committee arrived at a similar conclusion, finding that the Nationals were entitled to $59 million per year for the 2012-2016 seasons — about $20 million more annually than they would end up receiving from MASN during those years. The revenue-sharing committee’s latest decision, according to the Sun, looks mathematically similar to 2014′s.
The first decision was appealed successfully in New York State Court by the Orioles, who argued that because the Nationals were represented by Proskauer Rose, a law firm that had represented Major League Baseball, there was a conflict of interest. MLB also tendered $25 million to the Nationals in 2013, and the Orioles argued that the league’s internal mechanisms to decide the dispute were improper because the league held a financial stake in the team.
The Nationals have new legal representation, but the Orioles could seek to challenge the decision on the grounds that MLB continues to have a financial interest in the Nationals.
Last month, the Nationals sought to certify the revenue-sharing committee’s decision in New York State Court while also sealing the filings. A hearing is scheduled for next week, and at least some aspects of the committee’s decision are expected to become public.